05 January 2011

The Northern Hemisphere - Quiet Songs for a Loud Generation

I was approached a while back by The Northern Hemisphere himself to do a review of his upcoming release "Quiet Songs for a Loud Generation".

No, not the continent, but the artist (whom you can follow on twitter at @LPDevotee) who is a pretty cool guy. He said he had a new album coming out at the first of January and I was stoked he asked me to review his album.

It's an interesting mix of soft piano, off kilter drum kits, ambient drones, and some theme and variation.

The album starts off with some upbeat ambient music with the song "Celebration." It gets you in the mood for the release on a whole. A little Lullatone, some ambienteer, and some Boards of Canada influences in there.

Then comes the song which took me back and at first I didn't know how to take it. I was torn between not liking it at all to this is some good stuff. I've listened to it a few times, and when taken in context with the rest of the album, it fits. So, it's in the "like" category. "Empty Field" is eight minutes of drone and abstract drumming. The patterns of percussion are there and then a curve ball hits you and it seems to not even follow a set course. It's a very interesting take on theme and variation. The drums are the set theme, and the melody along with the songs "Sunlight" and "Waking Up is Hard to do" are the variation. On other songs there are some off-beat drumming, but these three songs set a pattern throughout the album for how it will sound. "Sunlight" has a jazzy feel while "Waking Up..." is peppier but a bit chaotic. It's that groggy reluctance to peak from underneath the covers. Plus, if there was more of a hip-hop flavor to "Sunlight", I can see it being released on the Black Lantern netlabel.

The Northern Hemisphere also throws in songs with nifty trip hop beats mixed with some Boards of Canada and Lullatone keys. "Exit Signs" and "We Came from Dark Matter" are his ventures down this road.

He takes travels down the paths of drone music, a la ambienteer, in "Moving Mountains to Dust", "Our Daily Routine" and "Vibrance Within". His light melodies keep the tone of quiet that one would expect from an album of such a title. In "Moving Mountains to Dust", there is faint spoken word with you have to stop, adjust your volume, and pay close attention to understand what is being said.

He delves into some nice guitar melodies in "A Lady Ghost" and adds a play on volume by taking you from a set loudness to almost inaudible softness with "Quiet Song." I mean, you have to turn up your volume quite a bit.

You'll also find different filters, feed back, and bass mixed in to make this a neat experience.

I asked TNH about the title of the album and he responded:

"I decided to name this CD "quiet songs for a loud generation" because, our society is filled with so many overwhelming aspects that it's tought to calm down a lot of the time. All of us are always so busy that it would be nice if we could voluntarily stop to "Smell the flowers" so to speak, every once in a while. The other reason why I decided to give it a unique album title is, that So many people have sleep schedule issues like myself which is insomnia. I started this project as a way to reach out to people in a physical as well as a mentally sort of fashion to calm the senses, and to just go blank for a while."

He went through numerous songs and album titles, directions and deletions to arrive at the album he's released. To me, it all seems rather therapeutic, and to summarize some of his feelings - an introductory vehicle to help balance to people's lives.

My one criticism on the album is there is space in one of the songs (of course, I can't remember it now), where the percussion is delightful and then it goes a little off-kilter (outside of the songs which feature off-kilter drumming), which takes some of the oomph out of the song.

This album also passed two tests for me: 1) I can fall asleep to it and 2) my wife likes it.

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