SEA 05 | mnortham | [a great and riverless ocean]
"A new epic work by sound composter - Michael
Northam - working from threads of sound from kelp horn and 22-string
- a single track of nearly an hour takes the listener to a shimmering
pool just out of arms reach.
This work reflects
recent study of the kirana form of raga singing with teacher Michael
Stirling overlaid on his usual rich and sensitive work with heavily
textured sound combining into a wonderful tension between tonal and
atonal spheres of influence."
- mnortham, October
a nomad, an attentive and intuitive observer of neglected lifeforms
from which he captures the internal resonances & vibrational essence...
for more than 10 years now, he has shared his many journeys of perception
with the curious listeners, leading them through mysterious environments...
His work is a constantly unfolding experience operating on various levels...
"a great and riverless ocean" perpetuates this tradition
as well as sowing new seeds...
From a faint circular and buzzing pattern,
a cyclic schema is broken out of its stasis to reveal hidden harmonics
& radiant occurrences...
recomposing themselves through superimposition, elements
gradually grow into a distinct entity, a sonic metaphor of molecular
For those who like to come closer to the apprehension of reality, "a
great and riverless ocean" is a gaze beyond reflections, a
shortcut to imaginary landscapes, a fluid raga for meditation...
a great and riverless ocean
WEEKLY 362|Frans de Waard
Northam, aka mnortham, is a world traveller,
he never stays in one place for very long.
His music is recorded in those places, using other people's equipment,
soaking new ideas, and then moving on.
That's maybe the right spirit to keep one's work fresh.
mnortham's music evolves around the greater idea of
the drone. Either captured via the microphone in some environment, but
sometimes also via computer processing.
On 'A Great And Riverless Ocean', mnortham
uses 'kelp horn, 20 string zither and walfisch computer' - honestly
I can only imagine a 20 string zither.
In 54 minutes he depicts us an ocean - leaving early morning, when the
sea is all calm, but slowly as we move over the waves, thunder and darkness,
wind and storm arrive.
Halfway through the disc there is short, but powerful outburst. This
lasts only a short moment, and the quietness takes over again - but
things do seem to have changed, it's not the same calmness as before.
The work ends as quiet as it started.
'A Great And Riverless Ocean' is a typical mnortham
work : it explores the overtones of sound and takes great pace to tell
you a story.
If names like Mirror, Jonathan Coleclough, Monos, Ora or their US counterparts
as Jgrzinich or Seth Nehil speak to you, then I'm sure mnortham
belongs to your repertoire too, if not already.
With his kelp horn, 20 string
zyther and 'walfisch' computer, mnortham pours forth
a sea of ambiguously droning harmonics in one single track (53:58).
Faint, keening streams seep in from far away, simply hovering in vast
mistiness as far as the ear can hear...coarser, though not really scathing,
textures begin to boil into the mix as gleaming metal vapors churn.
At 25:30, the rising tide stutters and fades back... but resolutely
continues its everflowing energies.
In the disc's final minutes, viscous tones elongate over the currents,
blurring into their everyway motions, fading to a sunset-state of beauty.
If you're looking for a distinctly indistinct ambient expanse where
your ears may travel freely, set them afloat on a great
and riverless ocean ... but hurry, this is a limited edition
(100) cd-r from Belgium's Mystery Sea.
A Great and Riverless Ocean, Michael Northam
takes you to the centre of nowhere, a place of resolute stillness, where,
in its opening moments, a soft buzzing reaches your ears, moving in
slow circles, while another, higher tone reaches you over the vast expanse
opening up before your senses.
The swirls continue, always subdued, as if muted, mastered at a low
volume so that it might perhaps be played at a level that would compliment
the room tones of the listening environment, creep in slowly, inching
its way ever closer and working its subtle magic, even if we're not
completely aware of it.
Sharp transitions, static interferences, punctuate the piece and open
passages for new directions, yet we never seem to get anywhere, still
the vast expanse before us, lost in the sand, in the sea, in the emptiness
this is a truly desolate space. Northam (who has worked
with John Hudak, John Grzinich, Michael Prime and John Duncan, to name
a few) has often created pieces that are both empty and rich at the
same time, long drones that evolve slowly, places where travel seems
For these recordings, Northam has used a kelp horn,
a 20-string zither and a 'walfisch' computer as his sources, and even
if we're never entirely sure which instrument is contributing to what
vibration or tone, in the end it doesn't seem to matter, what we have
is a fabulously immersive dronescape, and rich, evocative sound work
in which we as listeners are left suspended, always moving but travelling
is a new chapter of enrapturing drone music by Mystery Sea, a qualified
label about Mystery Ocean’s static dreams or reflexions. This is Michael
Northam’s turn, a truly alternative musician who has made smart
research the main reason of his artistic life: from Aeolian harps to
audio-installations, to the long strings, to reinforced concrete towers,
to solar batteries, Northam has always known how to
create new sonorities and routes by submitting the audience to experiments
with a stimulating, alien, thick, mysterious music. This record - which
is said to have been inspired by the wide, endless Oregon sky – is no
exception, and it tells of a wide, partially still, dark coloured Ocean,
most certainly menacing and lived by unimaginable creatures which often
come to the surface or sing deep down its coat or its depths. The starting
point of these drones has been provided by a kelp horn and by a 20 strings-zither,
and their mixing through each other sounds quite alienating due to the
huge difference of tonality – from padded sounds to metal friction,
the whole spectrum of audible frequencies is involved. And after 50
minutes in such waves, I lose myself into the final surf made of light
resonance and probable vocal calls merging from troubled waters. Silence
returns. The next record in the series will be from Aidan Baker, I wonder
how the Canadian guitarist is going to describe this Ocean...
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