As a reviewer, I often feel bombarded by bands and their music trying too hard to force superlatives down my throat in an effort to stand out from the crowd. Everything is “awesome,” when it used to be enjoyable, bands “totally smash” gigs, rather than perform well and the more they force such unwieldy descriptions on me the less I want anything to do with them. It is wonderful then when a band just drift past at the very edge of my peripheral senses, a mention here and music sample there, making no obligations or promises. That is the music I engage with most. And so it was that I came to My Northern Sky’s debut album, Glasswing. Fly; delicate, emotive, elemental employing Nick Drake sounding titles to match the music I was to find within.
And just like the subtle and un-presuming way the band, or should I say one-man band -being a musical nom de plume of one Christopher Ryman – gradually drifted into my consciousness, the music matches that approach. Sounding like the score to a film that was too beautiful to ever be shown to the public, the music often hangs almost beyond reach, like morning mists being described with classical piano passages and scratchy electronica that comes across like half heard radio white noise, the distant voices of aliens or angels being harnessed into a translating format as a way for us to understand it.
At the most song driven end of the album, such as Old War Horse the obvious reference is Damien Rice at his most chilled, but it is not an album designed to play by the rules and whilst it may or may not be a concept album, many of the shorter instrumental pieces only make sense when they are listened to, in sequence, as part of the whole, the way we used to list to albums in the pre-digital age.
In short it is an album of mesmerising aesthetic beauty, audio works that exist somewhere between music and art, sound sculptures rather than songs in the conventional sense and a reminder that art for arts sake is reward enough.