Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #168 - The Magnetic North, "Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North"

A tribute to the Orcadian homeland of the band themselves, I'm led to believe. It radiates an energy from some midpoint between Scotland and Scandanavia, as you might expect.

There's a soft shoe shuffle to "Bay of Skaill", best indicated by a deft little bass signature that scribbles by every few bars at the beginning. And there are strings and warm brass. "Hi Life" too has a very unusual angle to it, the strings and a bass parp pulling out a curious tension that reminds of late Radiohead. There's some beautiful humming.  "Betty Corrigall" has more of a traditional feel that you might expect, but the AM radio whistle in the background is a lovely touch. The following track, "Warbeth", has a Tales of the Unexpected twist in the music, elegaic and untrustworthy - like homesickness. There's a doomy choir, electronically juddered, and more strings and bleeps later on. Dead classy; I like. It ends with the twinned sounds of a guitar and a computer unravelling happily together.

The scope of this album reminds me of Super Furry Animals a bit. Not the sound so much, though there are actual sounds I recognise from SFA albums past, and not the vocals, which are clearer and more crystal; the scope is more those parts of ideas they are prepared to touch. An armada of wobbly mandolins or whatever the ffffucuckckk hulk across the scene on "Old Man of Hoy" before a musical box tidies the place up. "Netherton's Teeth" mentions something about "foolish ire", but "Ward Hill" ups the wail quotient and sits on the sea wall looking out at the bruised waters and salty clouds and considers its options.

"The Black Craig" summons up all the terror and intrigue that playing double basses with bowes and spooky brass key changes and slightly subliminal choirs can muster. And there are no words to put me off. "Orphir" is a fascinating mix of pagan chant, beefy electronic washes and even a hint of dub bassline. Possibly the strongest track on a pretty strong album. "Yesnaby" rounds the album off with more decomposed children's themes working over a thudding, insistent . It ends the relax, warm-down section of the album. A couple of voices crying "a place to hide/No more shouting, no more silence." There are a lot of elementals round there, I suppose.

Rating: Wobbling Smartly out of Magnetic Orbit

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