The Magnetic North - Prospect of Skelmersdale - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Magnetic North - Prospect of Skelmersdale

by Mark Steele Rating:7 Release Date:2016-03-23

What musical organic goodness can come out of a northern English town called Skelmersdale, particularly during the bleak Thatcherite era back in the early 1980s. Well, it is really about that which descended from the bohemian oasis, a self-sustaining community which became the UK hub of the Transcendental Meditation movement. They made it their mission to spread peace, love and charity to the locality and further afield.

Twenty plus years later and cue the second album, Prospects Of Skelmersdale by three piece orchestrators; The Magnetic North. Comprising members Simon Tong, Hannah Peel and Erland Cooper - Who originates from the Orkney Islands as per the group’s 2013 paranormal inspired debut release, Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North. There was a spark of curiosity by Simon to connect to the spiritual landscape of his home town, hoping to uncover some ethereal inspiration to form a sonic soundscape.

The 12-track project kicks off with the TM temple community inauguration on ‘Jai Guru Dev’ with a collective drone of organ, strings, woodwinds and reverberating harmonised choral melody by the band, It further grafts in grainy audio footage of the event. Equally evocative are the staccato selection of strings, mandolins and guitars on ‘Pennylands’ which with the vocal harmonies, seems to have a connecting consciousness. The driving orchestration of ‘A Death In The Woods’ embeds a haunting picture of a story of fatal sorts, it is both potently organic and technological in the instrumentation coupled with Hannah’s high-end harmonies, which somehow links both worlds of past and present, it is a looming surprise incorporated in an uptorecord. One of the highlights on the album, is the infectious ‘Signs’ employing coherent lyrics great orchestral arrangement, warm fuzz guitar, and rich vocal harmonic lines contained within the whole song; a timeless classic. The album as whole is a retrospectively safe combination of psychedelic whimsicality, spacious vocal layers, and live sound orchestration.

The majority part acapella treatment on ‘Little Jerusalem’ is enveloped by a vastly layered strings arrangement, and then leads to the moody ‘Remains Of Elmer’ possesses a dry boxy drum sound with swerving/rising strings, all underpinning tropical-feel vocal lines, and again in an almost Hawaiian meets Celtic slant on ‘Cergy-Pontoise’.  Chiming impressionist pianos later into the danceable ‘Exit’, bear a very close harmonic resemblance to Composer Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No.9 Movement 2: Largo.  The track that should have ended the album, skipping along whimsically with no shame is ‘The Silver Birch’. It is intensely climatic and rejuvenates the sound formula as heard on other songs including skippy claps and the sweetened mantra loop “You will find a time when all the words come crashing down boy/you will find a time when all your hair comes crashing out girl/you can take the light out of the daytime make the night time, Why?…”. The vibe on ‘Northway/Southway’ comes close to Lou Reed’s classic ‘Perfect Day’, and the last song ‘Run Of The Mill’ is a simple and short acoustic piano ballad, with Helen’s tender vocal phrasing.

Prospects Of Skelmersdale overall, presents itself in a simplistic home-grown and modest manner. It contains moments of orchestral brilliance, and there are also bland irking moments within the arrangements. It has to be said there are few acts that are creating like The Magnetic North, and once they crack that winning formula, they will be a noticeable act to behold.

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