Release Date: March 21st, 2017
Label: Cryro Chamber
I’m sure I’m not the only reviewer who struggles with covering ambient music. Thing is, those elements that you normally talk about are absent, such as structure, melody, vocals and lyrics. Ambient music is all about mood, and that is not so easy to get a handle on because “mood” is a very personal, individual thing. Everyone has (to a greater or lesser degree) a different emotional reaction to music, so how do we discuss something when we are not all on the same page?
Take ‘Markland’, as an example (and now would be the perfect time to do that). The flowing, gentle wash of guitars and bass sounds more like synths, and they put me in a relaxed, pleasant state, making me wistful. Northumbria once covered most of what is today north eastern England, which happens to be where I am from. I therefore envision the wind swept rocky coast of County Durham and the sodden moors of North Yorkshire. For me, it is physically elemental and very evocative.
In actual fact, the band here is referring to the Norse discovery of Canada, but that doesn’t matter. The fact is they create atmosphere, and what the listener does with it is up to them. Whether it is guitar or bass (sometimes it’s hard to tell), the musicians lay down extended chords that seem to expand and fill the inside of your head. Nothing is hurried, so there is plenty of time to savour that drawn out sound to its fullest. There isn’t so much layering as there is an almost imperceptible shift from one chord to the next. Hence you have mood.
Although there is an entire backstory to Northumbria’s Norse trilogy, listeners actually creates their own stories in their heads. In this writer’s humble opinion, that is exactly what ambient music is supposed to do.