MARK HARRIS: An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk (n5MD)


Posted on Mar 28th 2012 01:15 am

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Mark Harris: An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk

An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk
n5MD 2012
05 Tracks. 44mins22secs

Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: DLD iTunes: DLD

West Midland-based artist Mark Harris was originally primarily involved with visual arts, but a keen interest in generative systems led him to develop software applications which consequently used during live performances, and resulted in a spot on Birmingham Sound Matter, a compilation curated by Francisco López published on  Audiobulb in 2009, and in a first album, The Boy Observes The Ocean, released on Hibernate two years ago. Harris is also a member of Birmingham’s audio visual collective Modulate alongside, amongst others, Higher Intelligence Agency’s Bobby Bird.

The recording of this album came about when most of the UK faced an unusually cold and snowy spell over Christmas 2010. Harris found himself snowed him at home and, making the most of the situation, started improvising what would become the centre piece of the record, a sprawling nineteen minute atmospheric formation built from processed field recordings and acoustic instruments. Harris spent the next few months creating a complete narrative and assembling an album around it. Released on Californian imprint n5MD, An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk is a fluid and introspective soundtrack which opens and closes with the sound of rain falling, and serves various environmental touches throughout its course.

Rain is a particularly strong component on Softly Lies Sleeping, its intensity seemingly increasing through much of its course to reach almost monsoon proportion in the last third of the piece, drowning almost any attempt of expanding on its sonic scope. Fighting against the tide is a slow progressive drone which seemingly continues to develop through the course of In Slow Motion She Falls. Here, the impact of nature is much less, and, consequently, that of the music much greater. It is as if Harris was slowly building momentum ahead of the album’s centre piece by establishing a more peaceful and pastoral set up, and like the track immediately following An Idea Of North, focuses almost exclusively on leisurely musical progressions. But, if A Place Of Safety/All Things Will Change appears somewhat ambitious and orchestral, In Slow Motion She Falls is comparatively stripped down and contemplative.

While starting on a similar tone to its predecessor, An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk goes through a series of changes, each sequence bringing a different dimension to the overall piece. Field recordings once again become more potent, but their imprint remains much more controlled. The introduction of piano eight minutes in shifts the focus onto more musical components as further layers are progressively added. A Place Of Safety/All Things Will Change continues to feed on this dynamic throughout its all course, but nature quietly takes hold on Towards An Ending And Reprise again to bring the album back exactly where it started.

A song cycle of sort, An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk takes a while to reveal its many levels, but as it does, its fabric becomes much richer and more complex, Mark Harris’s narrative becomes more powerful, and the album’s gains in evocative power.


Mark Harris | n5MD
Amazon UK: CD | DLD US: CD | DLD Boomkat: DLD iTunes: DLD

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