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Spirit Flags by A Northern Chorus

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Reviewed on 23rd February 2004.


Spirit Flags

By A Northern Chorus

I know this band. Well, sort of. I remember about a year ago, that someone was posting on the Sigur Rós message board talking about (because he was in) a band called 'A Northern Chorus'. And so here's their latest album, 'Spirit Flags' now in my CD player. It's a funny old world.

One thing that strikes you even before the CD has even entered the player is that these six Canadians obviously like post rock, or 'dream pop' as it's called on their press release. And here's me thinking that fellow Canadians Godspeed You! Black Emperor albums are hard to get hold of, but they seem to have studied them all. The track titles alone are subtle variations of Godspeed's, with 'Red Carpet Blues' to GY!BE's 'Dead Flag Blues', 'Mombassa' to 'Monheim', 'Louder Than Love' to 'Locks Of Love', and 'I Dreamt The World Had Ended' to 'She Dreamt She Was A Bulldozer...'. All of which feature on Godspeed's second album 'Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven' (which is very good, trust me). Maybe there's something in the water in Canada...

When the CD does start playing, however, it sounds as good as it looks. Much like 'Loveless' by My Bloody Valentine sounds exactly how it looks, so does this. It's all floaty, dreamy guitar based post rock, with the most gorgeous of melodies, and the most beautiful of vocal harmonies colliding together, it's hard not to like it. First track 'Song & I' is a hazy collection of some pretty guitar riffs, and some totally delayed-like-a-wind-tunnel drums. The vocals are equally as haunting as they are perfect for these tunes. GY!BE don't really do words and singing, so already this album is a lot more approachable. Well, that and the fact that their songs don't last for twenty minutes a piece. Imagine Jim from My Morning Jacket singing over Mogwai's greatest hits. The lyrics however, could do with some work, sounding decidedly 6th form poetry in nature; it does dampen the fire of the songs slightly, but thankfully not much.

Second track 'Red Carpet Blues' is an upbeat guitar exercise, which works very well, and album highlight 'Let The Parrots Speak For Themselves' is a sumptuous, laidback dream of a song. It's like you're constantly half awake, half asleep. Music for the unconscious you could say. 'Take Your Canvas Everywhere' is another dazed beauty, complete with soaring delayed guitars, warm vocals and some head swayingly beautiful dynamics and chord changes.

It's easy to see why they were posting on the Sigur Rós message board, as they too have the dreamy (I've been saying that word a lot) melancholia of the Icelandic quartet. In a word, it's as hazily beautiful as the front cover, which consists of some trees at night, with a burning red glow from the sky. Speaking of sky, it's also reminiscent of Texan newbies Explosions In The Sky, with its distinctive, twangy guitar sound, and its penchant for going all loud from when it was really quiet.

There are flutes, violins, guitars and cellos, but it feels like there's so much more - a massive wall of ambient noise fits into every song like a hand into a glove. 'Louder Than Love' is one of the finest examples of post rock and what it's all about that I can think of right now, and while the band may have influences that are fairly easy to locate, they inhabit a world all of their own. Halfway between pop and obscure post rock, they seem to have created (or just brought to the forefront) a new musical blueprint. Adjectives like 'dreamy' and 'hazy' seem to fit, so lets call it 'hazy- dreamy- post- pop'.

And while some of the genres most defining music is dramatically apocalyptic in the way it sounds, this is completely the opposite - a joyful celebration of all the things that can be done with a guitar and a delay pedal.

The world seems to be finally coming around to see what this genre is all about, with Channel 5 currently using Sigur Rós to advertise their American cop shows, Explosions In The Sky being namechecked left right and centre, and with Godspeed You! Black Emperor being featured on the soundtrack to zombie horror movie '28 Days Later', you can easily see this bunch of plucky Canadians make the big time. I'm certainly hoping so.



All replies to this article. Log in to post a reply.

On 24th February 2004 at 13:31 Anonymous 883 wrote...

simon? wtf? get off my website!!!



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