Thursday 5 November 2020

Northway - The Hovering (2020)

Country: Italy
Style: Post-Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Sep 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter

It's ironic that the cover of this album features a ship floating through the air with no water around it, because I got the feel of water from the music within it. Point Nemo, the first of six songs on offer here and, surely referencing the submarine captain of Jules Verne, the first of four to explicitly hint at the ocean in its title, has a lapping rhythm to it. It's led by the pleasantly plodding bass of Matteo Locatelli, but the two guitars dip and weave like birds and the cymbals emulate sea spray.

I'm still learning about post-rock, but it seems clear to me that it's all about painting vistas in sound, using traditional rock instrumentation to achieve what electronic bands did entirely with synths and their many gimmicks. Certainly, that's what this Italian instrumental four piece do on what I believe is their second album, after 2017's Small Things, True Love.

Often those vistas are landscapes, but these feel like seascapes and, like the sea, they're volatile. That opener starts out peacefully, with calm waves, but it gets dangerous at a moment's notice. If the video featured the band playing their instruments on a raft out beyond sight of land, they'd be swimming for their lives by the end of the song. Kraken, as the title might suggest, gets even more vehement, a battle being fought at points.

Hope in the Storm is the odd man out for me, because it doesn't seem to go anywhere. It's a pleasant enough track but it kind of just sits there in between Kraken and Interlude, the two minute latter the piece of music titled to just sit there in between tracks. Oddly, it's more interesting than Hope in the Storm, with some particularly neat guitar echo, and it gets us into the right frame of mind for Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.

I don't know what Edinburgh is in this context, but I'm going to guess that it's a ship rather than one of the crew and it had quite the history. There's certainly some majesty and reverence in this track, as if Edinburgh had earned its place in the title of a piece of music. For the most part, it moves elegantly but surely through calm or tumult. I don't see anyone credited for piano, but it wraps up that way, a little sad but in a bitter sweet way, as the piano it knew that, even if the Edinburgh had run its course, it had done so well and it would be fondly remembered.

That leaves the longest piece on the album, Deep Blue, which doesn't just exceed the seven minutes of Edinburgh, which had all seven seas to travel through, it almost reaches ten. Then again, unless we're talking about the chess playing computer, which I seriously doubt, the ocean is vast and neverending. This particular Deep Blue gets playful too.

I liked this whole album, but it's more on the background music side of post-rock, because it paints its seascapes calmly for the most part. There are dynamics in play, but they either arrive early, with Point Nemo and Kraken, or wait until Deep Blue at the end, with Edinburgh able to conquer anything that might warrant interpretation in that way. I'd have preferred more variety and contrast, but I enjoyed this as it is. The Hovering is just more of a motel seascape than a Turner.

There's little to challenge here, the "ambient" and "dreampop" tags on Northway's Bandcamp page seeming a lot more appropriate than the "psychedelic" one, but that's fine. This music still took me out of my office and I enjoyed this safe and peaceful journey away from the chaos of the US election. Grazie per l'oasi, signori.

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