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A Northern Chorus
Bitter Hands Resign
Sonic Unyon Recording Company
www.anorthernchorus.com


And so, I begin my reviews of some of the finest shoegaze music of the year with one of the finest 'gazer records I've heard in over a decade. A Northern Chorus' latest release, Bitter Hands Resign, is a veritable masterwork of aural bliss. The songs are downbeat and melancholy washes of sound with vocals used more as instruments that linger in dense reverberations, lending an air of tranquility to the songs. The album instantly recalls the early days of Slowdive and Ride to these tired old ears, and that is a very welcome sound.

"The Shepherd & The Chauffeur" is a dynamic track that begins with a move from softly chiming guitars into a full-fledged wall of Ride-like sound and back down to a cello only whisper. "Subjects & Matter" moves more towards rock with its near constant slight drumming and vocals that fit a bit more rhythmically. It is still a dreamy tune, full of chiming arpeggiated guitars and solid basslines. "This Open Heart" is a densely sonic track, built upon solid walls of organ, guitars, and bass. This song could have easily been a standout track from Just For A Day with its spacey vocals and slowly lilting rhythms. The splendor of the ride cymbal has almost never been more evident. The beauty of "Prisoners Of Circumstance" belies its heavy subject matter, creating a palette of light musical tones (reminiscent of The Autumns) that carry a story of death and heartbreak. Nowhere on this record is the dynamic ability of the band more evident than on the charming "Costa Del Sol" with its slowly building rise into sonic glory, and the absolutely stunningly harmonized layered vocal tracks.

A Northern Chorus' lyrics are dazzling, with the album opening lines "You've been talking in tongues for years now haven't ya/ encoding the view into your body of work/ The story goes, that somewhere across the prairie spine you severed all ties to the crime and drove on for miles." The prose on this record is exactly that, a rambling poetry that rarely rhymes and drags syllables into long draws to fill spaces. The result is a completely non-pop feel to the music, nudging this fine release firmly into the shoegaze/art form of music. The multi-layered vocals are delicate at most times, which betrays the heaviness of the mass of the subject matter.

Not only is this amazingly brilliant music, but the album artwork is classic and beautiful… not to be missed. It looks to be another great year for shoegaze music, and I'll be here to let you know what I find.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. The Shepherd & The Chauffeur
2. Subjects & Matter
3. This Open Heart
4. Watershed Divine
5. Prisoners Of Circumstance
6. Costa Del Sol
7. Don't Think Of Collapse
8. Winterize


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Mike Doughty



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