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|the distance brings us
CD 2008 | Silber 068
5 tracks, 46 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~135 megs))
Born Yesterday, Dies Solis, Dimanche, Escaping Light, Already Gone
: Press release
The booklet for The Distance
Brings Us Closer is full of icy blue shots of horizons with white clouded
skies & orange tinted sunsets, a souvenir from the band's visit to
Iceland last year; & most of the sounds found within it can be described
just like that, with a frozen beauty emanating from the speakers as one
catches the wind of a glacial-paced snail over a snowed-in neach a few
feet from your feet as the lazy sun barely lights the world around you
to reveal a blue that can remind you of being deep into the ocean except
you're in the surface drowning in oxygen yet leaving breathlessly over
the gourgeousness of such conditions. The husband & wife tag
team plus others decided to field record their latest hike in soundscapes
with a stereo machine, live in the studio with barely a theme discussed
among the practitioners to develop the five slowly evolving pieces that
make up The Distance, but making everything being alive even if we're talking
about atmospheric rock that flows through like a cool arctic draft in the
middle on the most demanding dry-as-shit desert summer; Northern Valentine
keeps everything in sight, with eyes on their goal & focused on their
telepathic improvisational skills, presenting tracks that hardly overstay
their welcome like many a droning record does, & refuse to become air-conditioning
wallpaper for the listeners by giving us enough personality to their formless,
breezy sounds to make them stand out from so many instrumental bands that
fight over who to bore next. Northern Valentine don't bother even
showing up to the ring, they rather stay where they are & let their
wintery tones connect them to the nature of it all, inviting listeners
to their igloo; sharing aesthetically some with bands such as Windy &
Carl, Labradford, & others from the Kranky stable, The Distance presents
us a band who freshly displays a way of making instrumental music.
~ Marcos Hassan, Bad Acid
Hailing from Philadelphia,
Northern Valentine is a band built around the core of husband and wife
duo Robert (guitar) & Amy Brown (violin, keyboard). Inviting two guitarists
(Jeffery Bumiller and Ben Fleury-Steiner) and a bassist (Marc Carazo) into
the fore, the band adds depth to their ambient post-rock sound which follows
the same aesthetics as Windy&Carl, Netherworld and Biosphere.
Like drifting in a bulbous cloud through a unpopulated, cotton-wool metropolis, Northern Valentine score the soundtrack to an imaginary Arctic dusk, an image which is perfectly conveyed by the album art. Across the 5 pieces, elongated string melodies glide and evaporate in spectral fashion as crisply effervescent tones occasionally glisten within the drone laden expanse. Themes of glacial isolation, depressive darkness and ominous paranoia fuse delicately with a delicate romanticism and the silver lining of optimism in a soundscape that floats between dense and minimalist textures.
Opener ‘Born Yesterday’ is a cinemascope manifestation of ethereal post-ambient music. Like a lingering nature shot in a Haneke or Coen Brothers film that is riddled with a deep, emotive undertone, it grips ones mindset through its subtle use of omnipotent drones and deeply melancholic tone. The album then starts to slowly move into a regressive lull, especially on the solitary introspection of ‘Dimanche’ which churns subtly with a windswept forlornness. Sounding like The Caretaker meets The Necks played at 16rpm in the banquet hall of the submerged Titanic, the delicious sub-aqua, minimalist piano waltz of ‘Escaping Light’ adds a much anticipated glow to proceedings as glistening melodic droplets lace a backdrop of warmly buoyant drone. The closer ‘Already Gone’ is the most post-rockish of the 5 tracks as stretched violin and guitar melodies meander around each other in ghostly fashion, all-the-while exuding that reflective and melancholic timbre that poignant post-rock is all about as melodic arcs resonate with compassionate fervor over a timeless soundscape of drifting sonic spacedust.
Recorded live using a stereo field recorder and without any post-production or overdubbing, the five-piece improvised off of each other around planned themes. Thusly, such a process has led to a natural and spacious soundstage that wrings with an all important warmth. With all the pieces melding into each other to form an engrossing 45 minute dreamscape, the emotive cinematic expanse of ‘The Distance Brings Us Closer’ will have you cloud surfing for many enjoyable hours to come.
~ Ray Miri, experimusic
This is lovely. The cover
features photos taken by the couple behind the band, Robert and Amy Brown
(guitar, and violin and keyboards respectively), on tour in Iceland in
June 2008 – that would be just before the Icelandic economy evaporated
like steam from a geyser, then - and the wide open spaces, airiness
and atmosphere of the pictures they’ve used sums up the mood of the album
A Philadelphia, USA, based duo, they are joined here by two additional guitarists and a bassist, all of whom improvised together in the studio around various themes to create the album. The title, which I fretted at first might be suggesting that the band had mailed various recordings to one another which were subsequently sewn together digitally, rather references the trip to Iceland, and the songs throughout are clearly inspired by this. The lengthy (15 minute) opener ‘Born Yesterday’ is glacial in its movement; fans of Windy and Carl and Aarktika will smile knowingly and close their eyelids in satisfaction are the soothing, intense ambience of the sound. ‘Dies Solis’ ticks and burbles along like a slow train crossing a snowfield, while ‘Dimanche’ builds to a crescendo like a fish-gutting factory waiting for the fleet to arrive. The stand-out for me though is ‘Already Gone’, with it’s solitary keyboard “plink” lending inevitable references to Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’.
This is minimalist ambience at its best. Heartfelt, soulful & affecting, like gazing at a scrapbook of memories. The ever-reliable Silber Records are to be commended for bringing us this – repay the favour by investing in a copy, since downloads won’t help guarantee there'll be more to follow.
~ Phil McMullen, Terrascope online
Five tracks make up The Distance
Brings Us Closer and each of them take a similar format. These are soundscapes,
great glacial swathes of low frequency keyboard washes and intermittent
guitar and percussion interventions. The effect is of a series of sound
collages, notably lacking in some of the overindulgence that often spoils
the intended effects of this type of experimentalism, and the results are,
over the forty or so minutes, some of the most effective pieces of aural
sculpture I might've heard since the first Sígur Ros album.
Northern Valentine is very far from novice in this field though; the members have been recording together in various forms for over a decade, based around husband and wife team Robert and Amy Brown, and The Distance Brings Us Closer is their seventh album. Working as a five piece here (adding to the aesthetics here are Jeffery Bullimer, Marc Carazo and Ben Fleury-Steiner) and eschewing a studio style in favour of a more immediate "live in the studio" approach, the quintet go some way towards pushing the boundaries of post-rock beyond metallic repetition and on to some areas which I hesitate to describe as ambient. There's simply too much backbone in Northern Valentine's work for The Distance Brings Us Closer to find itself merely labelled as Muzak.
I need to admit that I don't very often hear full albums of this type of soundscaping. Those I do hear often slide into either chaotic atonality or folk based whimsy, and Northern Valentine do neither of these. There aren't any sudden feedback solos or overbearing mood-shattering drumming going on here: The Distance Brings Us Closer is a tightly-scored piece each of whose five parts properly cohere. There isn't as much as a spare hi-hat tap on display, and if Northern Valentine really are improvising, then their decade of practise has worked any of the more effusive traits out of their composition.
Varying between the abrasiveness of third track "Dimanche" and the sonorous glissandos of "Escaping Light" which, while it incorporates some more identifiable post-rock touches, these are sublimated beneath the vastness of the entire Northern Valentine armoury. Great swathes of white noise and guitar hydraulics, blizzards of reverberating electronics and a refusal to undercut the strength of this music by adding more populist elements make for a challenging and rewarding listen. Play it quietly, 90% of The Distance Brings Us Closer exists beneath the surface.
~ Jon Gordon, Delusions of Adequacy
Northern Valentine is the
husband and wife duo consisting of Robert Brown and Amy Brown. Unlike most
other husband and wife duos, however, these folks do not create cutesy
pop music. The Distance Brings Us Closer presents five tracks of atmospheric
drone. Recorded live in the studio with no post-production or overdubs,
this is definitely an album that will create a mood. Joining the Browns
on these recordings were Jeffrey Bumiller (Doctor Scientist, Lunch With
Beardo), Marc Carazo, and Ben Fleury-Steiner (Light of Shipwreck). Even
though traditional instruments like guitars and basses were used in these
recordings, you won't hear any traditional or obviously familiar sounds.
Everything has been heavily treated and/or drenched in effects to the point
of becoming hypnotic noise. The folks at Silber seem to be one of the main
sources in the United States for this style of music and, as such, seem
to unearth some of the best of the best. Intriguing stuff, rather heady
Northern Valentine’s The
Distance Brings Us Closer uses a familiar ultimate atmospheric minimalist
drone aesthetic along the lines of Stars of the Lid to achieve its goal,
but I can’t say that I mind as long as the results go this far into the
eerie depths of the Atlantic Sea. The always-reliable Silber label that
put this disc out claims that drone, love, honesty and sound are the key
words to describe what they do and I am tempted to use the very same words
to describe this disc. This husband and wife duo is apparently from Philadelphia,
but judging by the sound this was probably recorded with the imaginary
view of a never-ending horizon or the sea at dawn in mind.
~ Mats Gustafson, The Broken Face
Like the gorgeous, frozen
landscape photographs (from their recent Icelandic tour) that adorn the
cover of this Philadelphia husband-wife duo’s seventh album, Amy and Robert
Brown’s music (supplemented by bass and two additional guitarists) creates
an expansive atmosphere of loneliness. Like Stars of The Lid, Windy &
Carl, and label mates, Aarktica, Northern Valentine’s music delivers a
sense of floating in space or a communion with nature where the listener
is enveloped in clouds of billowing sonics. The listener’s imagination
can run wild creating images to accompany this ambient soundtrack and opener,
“Born Yesterday” seems to capture the awe and mystery of an infant floating
inside its mother’s amniotic fluid.
The heavily treated trio of guitars imbues “Dimanche” with a frightful, almost industrialized aura, which like much of the album could easily serve as a post-modern soundtrack to David Lynch’s underground classic, Eraserhead. The syncopated sonar beeps hovering in the background of “Escaping Light” add a Floydian touch, ca. “Echoes,” while Amy’s extemporaneous piano tinkling adds an air of haunting dread. The set ends with the melancholic-yet-hopeful, “Already Gone” that perhaps signifies that the titular couple in the album’s title have resigned themselves to the distances that physically keep them apart, yet their love strengthens their relationship and does, indeed, bring them closer. In sum, an awesomely hypnotic listening experience. 9/10
~ Jeff Penczak, Foxy Digitalis
Chilly spacious distance
with random muted industrial movements in dense fog. Full and shrouded
in supernatural mystery. Cold empathic visions of the beginnings and endings
of the universe. Subtly warm reassurances of far away factories humming
with artificial life. Ice as far as the eye can see, the wind murmurs like
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine
Over here in the UK Northern
Valentine has been picked up for distribution by Cold Spring Records, a
low key yet superior outlet for doom, drone, industrial and noise music.
The cult following behind Cold Spring will no doubt bring attention to
the group that may have otherwise been lost, and deserving they are of
this attention too!
Consisting of Philadelphia couple Robert & Amy Brown, Northern Valentine explores soundscapes and ambient, otherworldly drones with minimal instruments (guitar, keyboard and on occasion Violin).
The first of these new recordings (‘Born Yesterday’) on ‘The Distance Brings us Closer’ is class A prime cut ambience, an icy and echoed piece that glides effortlessly like Phlegyas might on the river Styx and at fifteen minutes long, the group have more than enough time to muse over and caress every subtle utterance from the track for the listener to enjoy.
‘Dies Solis’ follows in a similar vein, with a minimal and haunting tone, both distant and meditative, that takes full power of the senses when listened to, working on a hypnotic level that would have the six minutes of transmission seem to last merely thirty seconds.
Likewise with ‘Escaping Light’ that while still as ambient and hypnotic as its predecessors carries and air of foreboding and surrealism heightened when via the haunting piano piece that slowly sneaks its way into the mix.
Silber once again are the unsung heroes of drone and ambience, taking up the mantle for these genres by adding another strong and experienced group to their roster, ‘The Distance Brings us Closer’ is going to be a palpable hit for drone fans everywhere.
~ Michael Byrne, Left Hip
Hailing from Philadelphia
(USA) Northern Valentine is the brainchild of Robert & Amy Brown (who
are married and partners in crime for this project). Armed with guitar,
violin and keyboards they compose what has been called ‘post rocking ambient
music’. I totally agree for the ambient part, which is for sure worthy
of examination. While some of their compositions can move on the edge of
experimental (cf. “Escaping Light”) the main tracks are definitely covering
a wide ambient fields filled with icy tones. The guitar play is quite interesting
for the cool effects on top of it and comes to reinforce and enlarge the
ambient sonority of this composition. Northern Valentine has this little
original touch in composing ambient music and that’s for sure what I like
here! The “Dimanche”-cut is a real outstanding piece in an open-minded
ambient style. After several albums on Baresongs Music this project now
joined Silber Records and this debut-album on their new label is a fascinating
piece and a real good surprise!
And Their Refinement of the
Decline stands as the current high watermark in ambient/drone music as
far as I’m concerned. What Stars of the Lid did on that album, more so
even when compared to their past work, was conquer the most valid criticism
of the genre. Often drone can become static and stagnant, even claustrophobic,
but with Their Refinement, Stars of the Lid showed that ambient/drone can
contain constant subtle movement and that with said movement comes a tremendous
amount of expression; a soundscape so bleak that it’s entirely beautiful
at the same time. Essentially, Their Refinement is a successful synthesis
of form and expression.
So, approaching The Distance Brings Us Closer was a conscious decision to establish both where the expression lies and how it’s carried out. The form doesn’t make any great leaps outside of the established genre. Comparisons can be made easily to other bands like Hammock or Windy & Carl, but really only on a track by track basis, as the whole of the album is something different. The rolling and sweeping movement of Their Refinement is not here, but the album is not static either. The expression of Their Refinement is that of rumination, almost a travelling through the landscape of memory and regret, times long gone, but The Distance it’s something more immediate, something in the present, distance itself perhaps, both a presence and an absence. At the forefront of each track is the droning guitar work - all consuming, demanding the listener's attention - but behind it, at all times, there’s something bubbling and changing and brewing.
There are five tracks on the album, but it’s still a nice forty five-minute piece. Often, the real gem of each track is buried deep within it. There’s a real patience involved; waiting out the distance hoping it will bring us closer. Behind certain tracks there are subtle hints of tribalism, as if Grails were recording in the studio next door, and the walls didn’t quite stop the bleed through. It never fully develops, but it’s often there. “Born Yesterday” is the opening track and the longest at just over fifteen minutes, and just about halfway through this swirling miasma of guitar, the tiny clear voice of chimes cuts through. Similarly, the track “Escaping Light” has what sounds like processed flute work in the beginning and the tiniest hint of hand drums throughout. But, “Escaping Light” does a lot more too and is probably the track that stands out the most as far as establishing a Northern Valentine sound. Towards the middle of the six minutes piano keys starts fluttering through the drone and an upright bass plods through the background shadows as well.
If Northern Valentine set out to express the emotions felt in the face of distance, the anxiety, the helplessness, the way it is a giant burden made out of nothing, then I’d say they succeeded. The album is both immediate and elusive at once. It requires both patience and the ability to feel, and it can hold its own amongst the comparisons it’s likely to draw.
~ Michael Lutomski, The Silent Ballet
Thanks to bands such as Godspeed
You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, A Silver Mt. Zion and
especially Sigur Rós the post-rock genre has grown up in the last
few years. With every new album these bands reached for a higher level,
and thanks too that the full level of this genre is now much higher than
several years ago. The consequence of this change is that other bands also
need to release better music. That means: if they want to follow these
post-rock giants. Northern Valentine from Pennsylvania is one of those
bands. The band, in which the married couple Robert and Amy Brown are the
main characters, is now releasing its new album The distance brings us
closer. At this album we hear post-rock in combination with ambient. You
can compare this music with the music of Sigur Rós, but without
the angelical singing and the energy that gives every Sigur Rós
album a special complexion. Northern Valentine is not doing much more than
playing nature like keyboard sounds, repeating soundscapes and a few guitar
and violin chords. Although it would not be honest to say this is terrible
music, it’s also not honest to say Northern Valentine is doing something
very special over here. Even more, I think it’s right to say that, thanks
too the lack of vocals, tension and creativity, this album is a little
bit boring. That’s a shame, because listening to The distance brings us
closer it does sounds like this band could do a lot more. If only Robert
and Amy would experiment more, than this album could have been much better.
Ambient rock group Northern
Valentine draws similar inspiration as many of the emerging acts in the
"glacial ambient" scene, most specifically Netherworld, but besides using
a more guitar-oriented sound, they differ with their contemporaries by
taking a more emotionally ambiguous approach to their subject matter. Where
recent albums by the likes of Rapoon and Netherworld on the Glacial Movements
label focus primarily on arctic imagery as a metaphor for peace, tranquility
and timelessness, taking comfort in the emptiness and creating a similar
sense of quiet vastness in their music, Northern Valentine's work is much
more emotionally immediate; the emptiness is tranquil, but it's also lonely,
and that comes through especially on this album's opening track, "Born
Yesterday," with its rich, achingly cold guitar textures conjuring up scenes
of icy windswept plateaus, stunning vistas that wouldn't seem nearly so
stark if you had someone there to share them with you. "Dies Solis" is
darker still, the emptiness of the landscape lending itself toward brooding
and internal tension, a hint of nervousness and self-criticism buzzing
beneath the mournful guitar drones. "Dimanche" is more ambient in the classical
sense in that it soothes tension rather than exacerbating it, the soft
echoing percussive sounds drifting off into the fuzzy tidal drones, and
"Escaping Light," despite its title's evocation of the last lonely sunset
before a long arctic winter, is actually a little playful, with pleasantly
atonal pianos emerging occasionally from the sleepy guitar textures. "Already
Gone" continues this trend, its tones warmer than any of its predecessors,
the outer calm of the music itself seemingly indicating the inner calm
that comes with accepting the loneliness of one's present situation. Likely
to appeal to fans of both ambient acts like Bass Communion, Lull, and Oophoi
and such instrumental rock acts as Stars of the Lid, Windy and Carl, and
Third Eye Foundation, this album is cold but powerful, its subtle snowy
soundscapes a portal to surprisingly rich emotional territory.
~ Matthew Johnson, Grave Concerns
Married duo Robert and Amy
Brown comprise the hypnotic drone act Northern Valentine. The two of them
have designed a mesmerizing work of ambient music with The Distance Brings
Us Closer Together, a beautiful but haunting epic reminiscent of Biosphere's
polar drone adventures. Surprisingly, no overdubs or post-production were
involved in the record's creation, leaving only guitar, violin, keyboards,
and bass. Yet, these droning, wistful passages of sound take you to a personal
and isolated spot, something you might expect out of a GYBE! record.
The mournful resonance of "Born Yesterday" introduces Northern Valentine's gradual opus, inevitably followed by the pessimistic "Dies Solid," which leaves the listener slightly unsettled by way of its hollow drone. This is peaceful music meant for dark rooms, although in all its calm it still makes a strong emotional impact. Also splendidly intense is "Escaping Light," which adds a sporadic bassline and some eerie keys to its slow-moving core. Finally, the psychedelic guitar swirls of "Already Gone" make for a deeply hypnotic finale to the record, enveloping the listener in a mellow bliss until it slowly fades out. As the disc reaches its end, a notion flutters into consciousness and makes itself heard: The Distance is an absolutely stunning work of drone music.
~ Matt Shimmer, Indieville
Following a series of CD-R
releases beginning in 2006, the husband and wife team of Robert and Amy
Brown put out their first formal album release via Silber Records in late
2008, The Distance Brings Us Closer, also featuring guest performer Ben
Fleury-Steiner. Northern Valentine's music comes from a now very familiar
space -- open-ended electronic and guitar textures pitched halfway between
contemplative ambience and understated melodies, and to say that The Distance
Brings Us Closer would appeal to fans of nearly anything on Kranky Records,
for instance, would be an understatement. But if Northern Valentine works
in known ground at this point, they still do so with an atmospheric power
and grace. Perhaps their strongest knack is for how well they gently disguise
the core hooks without letting them get lost completely -- the cyclical
rise and fall of the main melody in "Born Yesterday," shimmers through
layers of echo and background texture, might be the most breathtaking moment
on the album. Other moments like the sudden appearance of a clear piano
part on "Dimanche" cutting through the meditative flow of the song further
demonstrate the group's abilities. If Northern Valentine are still working
towards finding their best sound, they have strong bases to build on.
~ Ned Raggett, All Music Guide
Didn't know they could say
"post rock" in Philly but this husband/wife duo bring the noise on this
5 song record. "Dies Solis" would scare me if I was listening to it in
a dark room with the lights off. Cover photos are from their tour
of Iceland in 2008. Always interested to hear more from the always underrated
Silber Records label.
~ Tim Hinely, Dagger
It’s just amazing what a
load of reverb, chorus and delay can do for an album. In some respects
the whole drone/ambient genre is an exercise in finding good excuses to
drench the listener with these effects, these invocations of space. The
Distance Brings Us Closer is a classic example of this approach.
Northern Valentine is a five piece US outfit and they deploy keyboards, violin, bass and a battery of electric guitars in their quest to drown the listener’s ears in hazy oceans of sound. Often it’s quite difficult to distinguish the instruments as they meld into a cohesive field of drones.
Sometimes more biting elements come to the fore, but with this album the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the instrumental parts. The result is that this music washes over you; it’s very hard not to let it carry you into different moods, thoughts or spaces.
The real question I ask with this sort of music is – does it take us anywhere? Do I feel that I’ve been moved, shifted, transformed? Or have we just spent 45 minutes chasing our tails?
Obviously this kind of drone/ambient music is not intended for the sort of intense listening focus that we would reserve for Shostakovich or Deathspell Omega; but by the same token I feel that ambient music needs to express some feeling or thought, it needs to invoke some kind of raw material for the imagination to work with.
Certainly the five tracks have some interesting motifs, and given that the performances are largely improvised the level of cohesion is impressive. The different elements drift across one another almost subliminally, so that if your ear catches onto one element you can quickly find yourself opening down myriad paths.
And yet at the same time it can all get a little too circuitous for my ears. The music does succeed in conjuring up misty and cold landscapes, yet it’s hard not to feel that the proceedings are a little empty.
Perhaps the atmosphere of the mountains that The Distance Makes Us Closer evokes is a little too thin for this reviewer, but it feels to me a bit like the musicians are playing on autopilot, like they’re not really emotionally invested in the performance. I just don’t have much of a response; like the icy ocean cover photograph I am left a little too cold by this music for my liking.
That isn’t to say that this is an unenjoyable recording, however. It certainly succeeds in conjuring a spirit of mystery and the music is both well executed and very cleanly produced. Somehow it seems a little incomplete or perhaps just too absent as a performance, and ultimately the album seems to gently lose its way into diffusion.
I actually find myself wishing I liked this music more than I do, because the elements are all there and it’s in various respects a fine example of ambient/drone music. Other ears might find this to be a good auditory home but for me it just doesn’t quite have the effect that seems intended.
~ Henry Lauer, Heathen Harvest
Northern Valentine are husband
and wife Brown from Philadelpia, who have been making music since 1997.
Previous albums were released on, amongst others, Gears Of Sand, but recently
has also been a number of albums on Silber Records. Earlier this month
we reviewed the three-way project "Clear Field". And I can now clearly
hear the elements that Northern Valentine brought to that collaboration.
"The Distance Brings Us Closer" is their new album and was already announced
as minimalist ambient at its best. And minimalist it is indeed...
Northern Valentine bring us five tracks and 45 minutes of soothing drones, ambient and lots of guitar feedback. I must have listened to this album some five times now this week... and I just can't get a grip on it. "Born Yesterday" opens the album with 15 minutes of calmy waxing and waning feedback, supported by muted guitar strumming and synths. It is this calm that I find my attention wander off in other directions after a few minutes. The album certainly has its moments and a track like "Dies Solis" is pleasantly hypnotising. Still, much of the sound does little more than cause some ripples at the surface. It's not that the sound is monotonous, there's a lot going on, and a track like "Escaping Light" has traces of loungy jazz with some double bass and piano in the background. But at the end I'm left with a "neither fish nor fowl" feeling; it doesn't really have punch, but it cannot really hypnotise me either.
~ songsoverruins, IkEcht
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.
~ Dave Heaton, Erasing Clouds
If you've stumbled upon this
review with any knowledge whatsoever of Philadelphia's Northern Valentine,
it won't be because they're responsible for that tune that's been stuck
in your head all day. In fact, so downright impenetrable is everything
on latest release The Distance Brings Us Closer that it's fairly unlikely
you'll come across them anywhere unless you're particularly willing to
look. Sadly, it's not worth your trouble. These five tracks run together
so significantly that to comment on them individually is a waste of time.
Call it post-rock, call it experimentalism, but ultimately this is a fifty
minute exercise in lifeless pretentiousness, never offering any more than
knowingly avant-garde atmospherics that lose their appeal in a matter of
seconds. Apparently The Distance Brings Us Closer is largely improvised.
Truth be told, this might serve to explain a lot, as it's genuinely difficult
to imagine such directionless nonsense being premeditated. Avoid.
~ Mitch Bain, Rock Midgets
The sprays of fuzz, feedback
and (possibly imagined) overtones created by this husband and wife duo
treads territory familiar to anyone reasonably familiar with shoegaze rock,
especially the stuff that eschews drums completely. Distance marks the
band's fourth LP, with a few EPs and live recordings in-between. Earlier
efforts, per the band's MySpace page, have tribal elements. The lack of
percussion here indicates a common evolutionary process for bands that
produce this sort of trance-like material. "Born Yesterday" launches the
listener gently down the stream-of-consciousness with a full 15 minutes
of rippling static and drone. A short series of sci-fi pulses breaks up
"Dimanche" just after the six-minute mark -- but don't let that jar you.
This is ideal listening for a winter commute when it's not rainy or dark
enough for something more immediate.
Reference material: If Seefeel's colder, cosmic crop-dusting experiments appeal to you, Northern Valentine will satisfy. And you should probably check out Louis and Bebe Barron's way-ahead-its-time soundtrack to Forbidden Planet.
~ Kris Kendall, The Typing Monkey
This CD from 2008 offers
46 minutes of haunting atmospheric tuneage.
Northern Valentine is husband-and-wife Robert (on guitar) and Amy Brown (on violin and keyboards). They are joined by: Jeffrey Bumiller (from Doctor Science and Lunch with Beardo) on guitar, Marc Carazo on bass, and Ben Fleury-Steiner (from Light of Shipwreck and owner of Gears of Sand Records) on guitar.
Lavish waves of processed guitars cascade into expansive layers of sound, droney in nature and eerie in definition. Equally haunting violin only increases the music’s desolate character.
The guitar notes are sustained, then extended to impossible duration, actualizing lethargic pulsations of harmonic mien. These infinite structures hang in the air, immutable in their resolute melancholy, yet the guitars easily fuse with each other to produce an oscillating temperament.
Winding through the mix, the violin, softly morose in its dire resonance, injects a spectral flavor to the undulant harmonic flow.
These compositions exhibit an arctic sound that goes beyond chilly to express a spacious quality, evoking vast regions unsullied by civilization, frozen in a pure example of liberating nature. While the music is generally ambient, peaks are achieved and relinquished as the tuneage progresses on its steadfast course.
~ Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity
Dark, atmospheric, instrumental
ambient music with layered guitars and synths (and no percussion) from
Philadelphia. The dark layered sound is reminiscent of Godspeed You Black
Emperor without the epic climaxes; The composition is more like Eno’s ambient
stuff, slow and steady atmospherics with repeating themes. Start with starred
1) 14 minutes – dark & atmospheric layered guitars & synths.
2) Repeating ambient synth theme that builds subtly to the end of the track
**3) 8 Minutes - Opens quiet and subtly builds into dark ambient soundscape.
4) Dark Menacing Sounds, looser composition than some of the other tracks.
5) Dark feedbacky guitar layered with ambient guitars/synths
~ Rafe McBride, Zookeeper Online
Five long, ambient, metallic
drone soundscapes by this Philadelphia husband and wife duo with one of
them clocking in at over 15 minutes. Fans of Seefeel, Silo, Rodelius and
Brian Eno’s ambient work will find this a ripping spin.
~ The Big Takeover
Lead by a married couple
from Philadelphia, Northern Valentine glides through definitive icy spells
that are remarkably created by guitars and no post-production. Having already
set a mood by placing a photo from Iceland on the album cover, Amy and
Robert (along with two other guitarists and a bassist) easily evoke any
kind of wintry, arctic imagery. These are also some of the most haunting
ambient sounds put to tape, some of which play like the soundtrack for
a crumbling and crashing ice sheet. Hailing from Philadelphia, Northern
Valentine is a band built around the core of husband and wife duo Robert
(guitar) & Amy Brown (violin, keyboard). Inviting two guitarists (Jeffery
Bumiller and Ben Fleury-Steiner) and a bassist (Marc Carazo) into the fore,
the band adds depth to their ambient post-rock sound which follows the
same aesthetics as Windy&Carl, Netherworld and Biosphere.Like drifting
in a bulbous cloud through a unpopulated, cotton-wool metropolis, Northern
Valentine score the soundtrack to an imaginary Arctic dusk, an image which
is perfectly conveyed by the album art. Across the 5 pieces, elongated
string melodies glide and evaporate in spectral fashion as crisply effervescent
tones occasionally glisten within the drone laden expanse. Themes of glacial
isolation, depressive darkness and ominous paranoia fuse delicately with
a delicate romanticism and the silver lining of optimism in a soundscape
that floats between dense and minimalist textures.Opener ‘Born Yesterday’
is a cinemascope manifestation of ethereal post-ambient music. Like a lingering
nature shot in a Haneke or Coen Brothers film that is riddled with a deep,
emotive undertone, it grips ones mindset through its subtle use of omnipotent
drones and deeply melancholic tone. The album then starts to slowly move
into a regressive lull, especially on the solitary introspection of ‘Dimanche’
which churns subtly with a windswept forlornness. Sounding like The Caretaker
meets The Necks played at 16rpm in the banquet hall of the submerged Titanic,
the delicious sub-aqua, minimalist piano waltz of ‘Escaping Light’ adds
a much anticipated glow to proceedings as glistening melodic droplets lace
a backdrop of warmly buoyant drone. The closer ‘Already Gone’ is the most
post-rockish of the 5 tracks as stretched violin and guitar melodies meander
around each other in ghostly fashion, all-the-while exuding that reflective
and melancholic timbre that poignant post-rock is all about as melodic
arcs resonate with compassionate fervor over a timeless soundscape of drifting
sonic spacedust.Recorded live using a stereo field recorder and without
any post-production or overdubbing, the five-piece improvised off of each
other around planned themes. Thusly, such a process has led to a natural
and spacious soundstage that wrings with an all important warmth. With
all the pieces melding into each other to form an engrossing 45 minute
dreamscape, the emotive cinematic expanse of ‘The Distance Brings Us Closer’
will have you cloud surfing for many enjoyable hours to come.
~ Deleted Scenes, Forgotten Dreams
The driving medium of music
is time. Usually compressed to allow the listener easier access to
interactions, the higher clock speeds and shorter forms lock into reassuringly
predictable patterns. Northern Valentine join a minority of artists
in departing from this formula, taking a longing look at something music
is equally well-suited to: suspending our sense of time. The steady
state is an elusive state, but one that sits just over the horizon of the
appropriately pelagic region mapped out by The Distance Brings Us Closer.
The five pieces are laconic, discrete layers of processed guitars, keyboards
& violins, added for timbral authenticity. The envelopes are
all marshland soft, with virtually no hard attacks occuring anywhere.
"Dies Solis" ("Days of Sun"), followed by the piece "Dimanche" ("Sunday,"
implying some relation) typifies the interestingly segregated structures
used here, isolating voices according to frequency range & then looping
them at uniform but staggered intervals. The long-delayed, lockstep
recurrences produce an odd dilating effect, with details coming in &
out of range in the best vertical music tradition. NV is usually
frank about their loops, with few instances of concealment, enrichment,
or other sleight of hand, revealing a simplicity that is at times admirable
& at others perhaps too familiar in presentation. The timbral
palette is mostly thin, dishwater-colored, & gratefully dissonant in
many places, adding some appreciated pathos. The Distance Brings
Us Closer is not perfect, but it does offer glimpses of what in time should
become more profound & genuinely enveloping work.
~ K Leimer, Expose
The Distance Brings Us Closer
(a ver si es verdad), editado en Silber Records, es el cuarto disco del
matrimonio Brown, Robert y Amy, Northern Valentine, con residencia en la
ciudad de Philadelphia. De corte ambiental hacen uso extensivo de los drones
para crear atmósferas, como el propio sello define, glaciales y
cálidas, minimalistas y densas, relajantes e inconsolables. El disco,
grabado con micrófono ambiente en estudio en tomas únicas
donde existía vía libre, para ellos y los músicos
invitados, de improvisar, se inspira en las experiencias de su gira en
verano de 2008 por Islandia junto a For a minor reflection (teloneros de
El libreto presenta algunas fotografías de sus espacios naturales que ilustran de forma fiel lo que nos encontraremos en los extensos seis cortes del disco... una amplitud gélida pero extremadamente bella allí donde las colinas son de verde hierba porque hace demasiado frío para que crezcan los árboles y el azul es omnipresente en un cielo iluminado debilmente por el sol y que se une en el horizonte con el océano.
Contienen distintos niveles de sonoridad, siendo los más altos los de Die Solis y Dimanche los más bajos, pero manteniéndose siempre en lo puramente atmosférico. Es amable, y sólo da cierto espacio a la duda en Escaping Light cuando pareciera que la caída de la noche generará un poco de inquietud, en soledad y ante la total ausencia de luz.
Couple à la vie comme
à la scène, Robert et Amy Brown forment Northern Valentine
et jouent à l'évidence de leur osmose naturelle pour délimiter
les formes alanguies, sortes d'improvisations planantes à base de
nappes de guitares torves, qui forment la texture abstraite de ce The Distance
Brings Us Closer. Plongé dans ce halo sonore de masses digressives
flottant dans l'espace du studio, on garde au fil des morceaux l'impression
de rester au plus près du duo tant la spatialité de l'enregistrement
et la force micro-statique des drones délicates qui se mettent en
place onduleusement dans ce schéma mental imaginaire se révèlent
prégnantes. Un exercice évanescent en forme de torpeur sublime.
~ Laurent Catala, Octopus
Une mer désespérément
vide qui s’étend sans limite jusqu’à se confondre avec le
ciel menaçant. Un titre qui évoque un sentiment de solitude
et d’abattement. La musique de Northern Valentine ne respire bien évidemment
pas la joie de vivre. Et malgré son nom en chausse-trappe, le groupe
de Philadelphie ne s’adonne pas au même bouillonnement tellurique
que My Bloody Valentine. S’ils ont retenu une chose du génie de
Kevin Shields, ce serait plutôt cette capacité à étirer
une note de guitare à l’infini. Au jeu des références,
il faudrait plutôt aller chercher un rapprochement du coté
de Windy & Carl, Flying Saucer Attack et Labradford. The Distance Brings
Us Closer est en effet une odyssée aquatique qui se décline
en 5 longues pièces instrumentales. Born Yesterday, qui s’étire
sur plus de 15 minutes, donne vraiment l’impression de voler juste au-dessus
de l’océan, avec pour seul point de repère un horizon vide,
à bord d’un avion d’espionnage. L’étendue d’eau défile
sous nos yeux, sans y déceler âme qui vive...l’ambiance est
tendue, les sens aux aguets, à l’écoute du moindre détail.
Avec un minimum de notes (et quand même 3 guitares électriques
!), Northern Valentine s’applique à instaurer une atmosphère,
avec des nappes lancinantes en lieu et place d’une ligne mélodique
intelligible. Réverbération et delays sont fort (bien) employés
pour créer la matière sonore qui ondule au fil des plages
vaporeuses, du roulis et des vagues qui incitent à la torpeur. Cette
longue variation autour de motifs aquatiques entraine l’auditeur au cours
de fascinantes dérives, au fil des courants et des rencontres inquiétantes
(Dimanche, sur lequel se dessine la silhouette d’un navire à l’horizon,
avant de disparaitre) et qui mènent l’auditeur jusque sous la ligne
de flottaison (la plongée féérique d’Escaping Ligths)
puis dans les profondeurs du grand bleu, avec Already Gone balisé
par le sonar lointain d’un sous-marin furtif. The Distance Brings Us Closer
s’achève, on remonte à la surface, on ouvre la fenêtre,
à la recherche de l’équilibre et d’éléments
~ Denis Frelat, Autres Directions
É nuovamente tempo
di tuffarci nel mondo post-rock e lo facciamo questa volta immergendoci
nelle sonorità rarefatte dei Northern Valentine. Gravitante intorno
alla coppia sposata e formata da Robert e Amy Brown (rispettivamente chitarrista
e violinista/tastierista), aiutati da altri chitarristi e bassisti, la
formazione di Filadelfia ha sfornato un lavoro che affonda salde radici
nella musica ambient.
Le cinque composizioni presenti sono immerse in riverberi e feedback generando un suono composito, i cui molteplici richiami compongono un mosaico omogeneo dove risaltano i quindici minuti siderali di “Born Yesterday”. La linea di demarcazione tra i singoli brani non è sempre chiarissmia, l’opera di per sé è una lenta colata lavica che scorre ininterrotta per quarantacinque minuti.
Delicatamente romantico “The Distance Brings Us Closer” è un’interessante fusione ambient/post-rock che si articola lungo molteplici strati sonori pur conservando un forte senso della melodia.
~ Alessandro Bonetti, Kronic
Marito e moglie nella vita
di ogni giorno in quel di Philadelphia, Robert (chitarra) e Amy Brown (violino
e tastiere) vivono da undici anni una curiosa storia discografica fatta
di sei dischi ormai rari che un giorno mi piacerebbe ascoltare. I cinque
lunghi brani del nuovo “The Distance Brings Us Closer”, registrati “live
in studio” con due chitarre ed un basso aggiuntivi, navigano su e giù
lungo i meridiani di quel post-rock ambientale e dronato che è ormai
il tratto distintivo del catalogo Silber (“Dies Solis”, “Dimanche” e i
quindici minuti di moto immobile di “Born Yesterday” sono esemplari in
tal senso). Consigliato a chi ha perso la testa per le ninne nanne spaziali
di Windy & Carl e Labradford e per i momenti più onirici del
repertorio dei Sigur Ros.
~ Raffaele Zappalà, Rockerilla
Disco difficile quello dei
Northern Valentine. Tremendamente difficile ed ostico, ma anche ragionevolmente
molto bello. Ci vuole tanta pazienza, ed un'assoluta predisposizone mentale
per farsi coinvolgere da questi suoni. La bellezza assoluta di "The Distance
Brings Us Closer" -disegnato amorevolmente da questa band statunitense
(Philadelphia)- risiede proprio nel lanciarsi (con dovizia di particolari)
in perfette divagazioni psichedeliche (per nulla tediose e banali), dove
gli strumenti scappano liberi. Cinque pezzi, rigorosamente strumentali,
dove i rimandi e le influenze musicali spaziano dai Mogwai ai Sigur Ros.
Northern Valentine percorrono -dunque-svariate filosofie soniche, risultando
alla lunga volenterosi ed anche creativi.
~ Claudio Baroni, Musica su Libero