erasing clouds

Northern Valentine, The Distance Brings Us Closer

review by dave heaton

The cover art for Northern Valentine’s The Distance Brings Us Closer is an expansive sky/water landscape photo, a captivating one. It sets up the notion that their music will similarly stretch out before our ears. And it does. Right from the start this five-piece instrumental/ambient band from Philadelphia – three electric guitars, one bass, one keyboard/violin player – builds a big sound filled with atmosphere. Its static qualities do bring to mind large open spaces. But listen closer. Because it’s not that static. Even within the first few minutes of that opening track, “Born Yesterday”, the seemingly peaceful music is busy with unusual sounds. As the track continues, it gets less peaceful, more ominous and stormy, without changing all that much. It’s a skill to make music where so much is happening even when it seems like nothing is happening.

Each track was improvised around a theme, recorded live in the studio. Each has a different feeling, a different sound even. For a while on “Dies Solis” it’s hard to hear it as particular instruments, more like one wave of sound. Yet it progresses, as all of this music does, even when it doesn’t. “Dimanche” strikes me as carrying more of a film-score atmosphere, and that’s a compliment. A horror film, a domestic drama, film noir, or a nature documentary; you decide. “Escaping Light” is eerie too, and airy. There’s quite a sense of space to the thing. “Already Gone” sums it all up in some way, feeling more finite though no more conclusive. Northern Valentine does generate closeness while they emulate distance. They create musical places that do feel physical, with their own visceral facets, but also open-ended.


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