Northern Songs – The Asteroid No. 4 (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

It’s funny how mainstream music seems to age very quickly but its underground opposite number always sound exactly what it always was. I suppose that is the trouble with surfing zeitgeist waves in search of fad and fashion. That’s the trouble with conformity. Follow you own mind, abide by your own rules and no-one can ever hold up a template to judge you by. Keep doing that well enough and the next thing you realise, as The Asteroid No. 4 surely do, is that you have released your tenth album of sonic gems.

And sonic gems they are, deftly fashioned from heady musical blends, from the hazy and the shoegazy, from motornik urges and kautrock energy, from the cosmic and the country-fide, the psychedelic and the paisley, the chiming and the shimmering…and all manner of inventive splices and fusions in between.

All Mixed Up kicks off in a shining swirl of buoyant bass lines and ethereal sonic shards, Paint it Green revels in some brooding and Bowie-esque moves and I Don’t Care wanders through The Byrds sonic legacy as pushed through a late eighties, British indie band filter…which it often was.

The title track gives some subtle nods to the late era Beatles, as well it might given the name, and the autobiographical Swiss Mountain Myth feels like the last sound you hear as you slip under the surface of dark waters, hazy, and only half-heard, claustrophobic yet somehow comforting.

I’m not saying that The Asteroid No. 4 hasn’t changed musically over the years, the sound clearly evolves from one release to the next. What doesn’t change though is the band’s vision to make music as they see fit, to follow a path which might be less obvious but which, by their own terms and needs, is the most rewarding one.

Some bands might be able to do that for an album or two but I can’t think of any other band who has spent more than 2 decades caving out just such a path with this amount of integrity and dedication.

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