320 kbps, LAME-encoded
Northling illuminate Reflections with their latest EP Hallowed Ground. Formed in 2017 as an improvisational collective, Northling draws inspiration from the ever-changing landscapes of Lancashire, encompassing its coastlines, lakes, and fells, where the shifting seasons can unfold within a single hour. This rich diversity is reflected in their cinematic indie-electronica music, which effortlessly transitions from melancholic to euphoric, from darkness to light, and from desolation to celebration.
Since their formation, Northling's music has garnered support from respected platforms such as BBC Radio 1 and BBC 6 Music. They were also the first band to release on Reflections, earmarking their distinctive sound on the label back in 2022 with their EP Tycho.
Hallowed Ground is the band’s third EP. “It starts...” so, with the opening lyric of ‘Lights’ the first track on the EP. This ephemeral track builds on the delicacy seen in previous releases; the deliberate absence of the band’s signature dynamic drums, instead replaced with rhythms suggested by plucked guitar and pulsing samples, deftly suggests the cinematic tone of the rest of the EP. ‘Lights’ is another track borne out of a series of studio sessions; testament to the band’s skill as a writing collective.
‘Wild’, with its synth arps and urgent, rolling drums reveals another side to the band; more forthright and energetic. Throughout the track, vocalist Joe Spencer’s lyrics explore the modern detachment from wildness and the urge to escape into nature, a call that is answered by Charlotte Rumley’s haunting declaration of “into the wild we go...”. With its specific sentiment and phrasing, this vocal part of Rumley’s was lifted from a different demo and became the focus and inspiration behind the writing of ‘Wild’.
The title track ‘Hallowed Ground’ sees the collective digging deeper into the cinematic elements of their sound; featuring beautiful strings, ethereal guitar lines and Northling’s signature haunting vocal harmonies. The song was written in a series of live writing sessions in the bands’ studio: “the main string motif and ‘Hallowed Ground’ lyric emerged early in the writing process, steering the overall emotion and sentiment of the piece.” (Spencer).
The final track featured on the EP is Bones. Expanding on the electronic components of the band’s sound, this piece takes an amorphous and progressive form with a bed of looped samples. Slow-burning and profound, a sampled voice muses “the message comes through... everyone is on the crust of this star... it’s very beautiful”. This recurring spoken motif is framed harmonically by affecting piano chords and delicate guitar melody, with the piece gradually building to a climax in which the two voices of Rumley and Spencer melt into one another over the driving groove of Dopping’s live drums, in true Northling fashion.
If their music seems indefinable, that’s because it is. The band draw on a wide range of musical backgrounds - from electronic to jazz to blues to soul, and the result is a melting-pot of sounds, samples and influences as powerful and diverse as the northern landscape they’re inspired by. “There’s this progressive nature to a lot of the music we write,” says Spencer, “it never really looks back, it's always moving forward and ending in a different place to where it began.”
Northling is Joe Spencer on vocals, keys and arrangement; Mike Mackenzie on lead guitar and trumpet; John Dopping on drums; Ally Brown on bass and samples; Charlotte Rumley on vocals and George Slack on synth. Spencer and Rumley also co-author the band’s lyrics.
Northling’s Hallowed Ground EP is out on Reflections on September 4 2023.