The Harrowing Of The North: New Music From Yorkshire


End of the Alphabet cassette / DL

Or: There’s Something About Yorkshire. Not that I’ve got the foggiest idea how to parse the mysterious qualities of that 11,000-or-so square kilometres of northern England, a chunk of ground that has inspired all sorts of weirdo artistic endeavours over the years. For some – writers such as David Peace, Ben Myers, Gordon Burn, for example – Yorkshire exerts a dank attraction, its landscape marked by occult sin and horrible crimes. Despite that gory trauma, the county’s eldritch oddness is a lot more complex than the monotone bleakness that the Red Riding Quartet and its cohort would have you swilling down. Balancing the grisly wrongdoings are a diverse gaggle of other voices, not least the lycanthropic giggles of John Landis’ ‘An American Werewolf in London’ – whose primal scene is the Slaughtered Lamb boozer and the surrounding moors – the queer realism of Bradfordian-cum-Californian David Hockney’s swimming pool paintings and the fungal odysseys of local voyagers Vibracathedral Orchestra.

And when it comes to weirdo sounds, Yorkshire demonstrates sufficient alchemical attraction to draw sonic explorers of a wholly individual cast into its vortex. All of which which brings us to ‘The Harrowing Of The North’, an exemplary taster of the grot and scuzz currently emanating from the territory. True, you’d hesitate to lump artists like Ashtray Navigations, Sophie Cooper, Guttersnipe et al into any kind of ‘scene’. But mushing together a whole load of freaks into a grab-bag whose (almost) only uniting feature is the region in which they base their operations just about makes sense.

Compiled by Vibracathedral Orchestra co-founder Neil Campbell and issued by New Zealander Noel Meek’s End of the Alphabet Records, this is about as vibrant, chaotic and unhinged a snapshot as you could ever want. And that fact that it brings together the unbridled inspiration taking place in this particular location, while positioning it within a global network of experimental musicking, is an added bonus. Macro and micro scales coexist in near-perfect harmony.

An indefatigable collaborator and network builder, Campbell knows the good stuff. Thus the produce on offer here provides a nourishing mix of material that underground heads will be aware of, seasoned with plenty of new tastes to keep things fresh. The synth and guitar ooze of Ashtray Navigations ‘Ultifoam’ and the gurning chiptune sludge of Core of the Coalman’s ‘It’s morning, it’s time for fracking’ fall squarely into the former category, while Eleanor Cully’s ‘Hard To Shout In Quiet Rooms’ (subterranean pulsation), Hawthonn’s ‘Diamond of the Day’ (frazzled liturgy) and Jupiter Fields’ ‘Soon The Light’ (goggle-eyed bongo dropsy) are prime candidates for further exploration.

To be fair, everyone plays a blinder here. There are great cuts from no-audience underground stalwarts Yol, Stuart Chalmers and Sophie Cooper. Campbell’s alma mater, Vibracathedral Orchestra, lets loose with a blissful 15-minute cut that, while a whole lot more tranquil than their recent clanking epiphanies, is a worthwhile addition to their canon. My only quibble concerns the righteous ongoing tantrum that is Guttersnipe. This duo’s guitar and drum outbursts are a wholly dyspeptic cyclone of shredding punk-noise maximalism, exposure to which engenders impromptu synapse burnout in all spectators. Yet they get a measly eight seconds?! Sure, it’s a good eight seconds – a ratchety drum rattle and distorted screech of WOMAN that is totally psycho Yoko – but buddy, couldn’t ya spare a bit more ferric for these chancers? They get pride of place in Volume 2, I trust.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s