MYSTERY SEA 05 | mnortham | [a great and riverless ocean]


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- "A new epic work by sound composter - Michael Northam - working from threads of sound from kelp horn and 22-string monochord
- 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 2002.


mnortham is 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 activity...
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...


01. a great and riverless ocean




VITAL WEEKLY 362|Frans de Waard
Michael 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.

vital weekly

Rated : A-
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.


INCURSION|Richard di Santo
With 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 all around...
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 almost impossible.
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 nowhere.


DEEP LISTENINGS |Gianluigi Gasparetti
Here 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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