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Some of the most original, intriguing, and experimental electronica can be found in the music of the UK-based duo Northcore. Creative partners Carl Gibbons and Jana Tillotson have released Desatero, which takes its name from a Czech word meaning “a set of ten works.” Each of the ten compositions on the album is a distinct impressionistic soundscape with its own story and inspiration, reflecting the artistic vision and production style of the duo.
Desatero is Northcore’s premiere release on Spotted Peccary’s O3E imprint. This compelling collection of exquisitely recorded sound paintings combines electronic ambient, ethno-inspired, acoustic, and sometimes upbeat sources into a mystical and intriguing whole that should appeal to fans of Biosphere, Bat for Lashes, Pete Namlook, Peter Gabriel, and Air. One of the most fascinating elements of their music is the use of “found sound” or the integration of non musical elements such as: footsteps crunching in the snow, birds singing, simulated hospital sounds, city hum from the 19th floor of a Bangkok hotel, various antique time pieces, and scientific recordings of the magnetic fields of Jupiter converted into sound, to name but a few. Blended with sensuous synthesizers, sequencers, electronic blips and bleeps, ethereal female vocals and more, a psychedelic wonderland unfolds in the mind of the listener. According to Northcore’s Carl Gibbons: “The ten pieces differ vastly in colour and scope, but I believe they do have the same spirit underlying their realization and production – one which is fiercely creative, driven to excellence, sometimes challenging, but filled with warmth.”
While the term “unique” may be over-used, there are times when it is the perfect word to describe something not seen or heard before. The music of Northcore is in a league of its own and propels the listener on a fantastic journey into spaces of imagination that spans a creative spectrum. Immediately intoxicating, this highly crafted work ushers in a new experience in the diverse world of electronic music that is poignantly human, organic, and inspiring, identifying Northcore as a preeminent electronic group for the present world … and for the future individual.
Northcore is the UK-duo Carl Gibbons and Jana Tillotson, who compose impressionistic, alternative electronics with an organic and chill-out edge. "Desatero" contains ten intriguing tracks (half of them have vocals) offering an unusual but exciting blend of contemporary electronica.
Its 41-minute peculiar sonic canvas blends ethno-ambient with down-tempo, experimental electronics and many multi-coloured flavours from world music. All pieces, a few are based on traditional songs or rhymes, tell a sensuous narrative of their own, and form an imaginative, alternate world of mystery with neo-gothic undercurrents.
The project also excells in extensively implementing found sounds and environmental recordings in their psychedelic, unpredictable compositions, all leading to a highly spacious, detailed and excellently mastered sound design. Personal favourites are the joyful opening piece "Looking Glass" that’s followed by the down-tempo oriented, TD-ish "Jupiter". In addition, there’s the fascinating and powerful "Nocturne", the smooth "Ladybird" and the energetic "Green Fridge", while "Metronome" (found towards the end) stands out due to the awesome blend of female and male vocals.
To imagine the inspired and rather dreamy wonderland found on "Desatero", think Biosphere mixed with a dash of Dead Can Dance and a good portion of Pete Namlook, rounded out with a flair of Celtic music.
Just give this peculiar, excellently produced release several spins (heard with a good pair of headphones makes it even more impressive) and one can only conclude its contains some remarkable, high-quality music hard to classify.
Nice going, Carl and Jana.
I try to avoid playing the “sounds like” game when I’m listening for review, but as I worked my way yet again through Northcore’s Desatero, two reference points wouldn’t leave my head. The first is the smooth and smoky “exotic electronica” that used to flow out of Waveform Records; the second is the snappy, analog-fueled EM currently coming out of the Groove Unlimited label. Add to that a firm dash of world-music flavor and you’ve got the sonic deliciousness that is Desatero. Carl Gibbons and Jana Tillotson man the ever-shifting controls here, kicking it off with the Waveform-ish “Looking Glass.” A rasp, at first like needle on vinyl but then more of footsteps on crisp ice, marks a beginning rhythm. Wispy electronics swirl in mid-air; then comes Tillotson’s voice: “And if the ice breaks under my feet, will you catch me?” With that cue, we shift into a lumbering, almost dubstep-style beat that Gibbons and Tillotson divert with a melody that sounds like a Renaissance folk dance tune, transported to the 21st century and dressed up in electronics. It’s these sorts of little sidetracks that make the difference on Desatero. Check “Nocturne,” with its Middle-Eastern-feeling vocals (pulling memories of Deepfried Toguma from my back-brain) and hand percussion–and then, in a beautiful and sudden shift, crunching in huge, soul-shaking church organ chords that just elevate the call-to-prayer feel of the voice. “Jupiter” gives the nod to the recent lot of good Netherlands-based EM and folds perhaps a touch of Tangerine Dream into the blend. Energetic and spacey, it courses along on a strong sequencer line and bass pulse. This is a high-volume ride that revels in its retro cred. “Green Fridge” falls into an odd IDM-type space, with a rushing wind sound that becomes a repeating musical phrase over a simple, repetitive bass pulse. Grinding, crunching sounds drop into the mix, and the thing takes off at speed. “Quercus” is an odd but effective interruption in the flow, an almost quaint tune mainly on kalimba and flute. The fact that it’s unexpected in the midst of everything else marks it as quite Northcore. For me, there are just two slight misses on Desatero, and they’re both tracks where the duo work in lyric-based vocals–or, more to the point, straightforward English lyrics. These cuts, “Oxygen” and “Parting,” feel weaker than everything else here. The lyrics come off a bit forced, as though Gibbons and Tillotson aren’t quit comfortable with them. It’s a minor consideration on such a strong disc.
This is a very short offering, clocking in at just over 40 minutes. But every moment counts here, and to that end Gibbons and Tillotson absolutely load these pieces with sound. It’s a real feel-good disc that you’ll find yourself turning up the volume on–and coming back to often. This is one of the first releases on Spotted Peccary’s new O3E imprint, and it bodes quite well for both the label and for future works from Northcore.- John Shanahan, Hypnagogue
The premiere full-length from this UK-based duo opens with the atmospheric and mysterious "Looking Glass", which combines a whimsical electronic melody with the sparse spoken words of members Jana Tillotson and Carl Gibbons. From there, the upbeat prog-synth "Jupiter" recalls the German sequencer melodies of Tangerine Dream. "Nocturne" uses Middle Eastern vocals to good effect alongside dubby electro textures. "Green Fridge" is icy ambient electronica ala Biosphere before erupting into a clubby techno beast, while the closer, "Min Ros" is a traditional Swedish song with lovely vocals by Maja Eriksson and a misty ambient backdrop.
"Desatero" isn't an ambient album, nor is it a techno album. It does, however, mix up those styles with elements of ethnic music, classic sequencer sounds, and plenty of unusual found sources. It's a stylishly confounding and surprising mix that works well.- Todd Zachritz, Goatsden
A richly varied release, the Australian-turned-British duo of Northcore has assembled a distinct collection of tracks that drift from one unique style to another. Released on California’s Spotted Peccary in 2012, the pieces here predominantly feature synth-based melodies and acoustic treatments, some in the vein of Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre, while others take on more worldly influences, with strong folk and occasional Middle Eastern motifs.
The album’s title, Desatero, is Czech for Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments. Indeed, we coincidentally have ten tracks included on the album, but these declarations are of a significantly different origin than the biblical.
Carl Gibbons and Jana Tillotson have crafted an album of delicate songs of love, remorse, and isolation. “I’ll be your oxygen / time and again,” sings Tillotson on “Oxygen,” straddling the fragile line of desirability and commitment in a single, quick turn of phrase. Elsewhere, the vocals give way to instrumental passages that possess a sparse style, yet are not without the odd flourish to reach out of the mix and grab hold of you.
There are, however, a few inconsistencies present that do take away from making this a more satisfying release overall. Production can vary from track to track—especially in how the vocals are treated, and in how high the synths are placed in the mix. Some tracks just don’t seem to fit in to the overall flow of things, such as the trance arrangement on “Green Fridge,” or the more plodding nature of “Metronome.”
There is much beauty to behold here though, and the stellar moments do outweigh the inconsistent ones. The album’s closing piece is an inspired and unexpected take on a traditional Swedish folk song called “Min Ros.” Maja Eriksson provides guest vocals here, and the results are simply breathtaking. The sounds of a delicate violin accentuate her voice, while field recordings and ambient chords sparsely provide the backing to this moving track. A perfect end to an album as musically diverse as it is enchanting.- Vils M. DiSanto, Heathen Harvest
Northcore is a duo of Carl Gibbons and Jana Tillotson, who are from London and Carl's influence is Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, but the ten pieces on this CD have slightly more to offer than a plain rip-off of his heroes. There is, one should think, a bit more variation in these pieces than in your average cosmic synth attack. There is, for instance, a stronger emphasis on the use of rhythm, and while not always dance related, a certain element of early ambient house (think early Biosphere) is strongly present. Then, field recordings play an important role in this music and also the voice of Tillotson. Its quite a mixed bag of various electronic styles. From ambient to dance music, chill out, field recordings, seventies cosmic music, bits of ethnicity thrown in, but somehow, somewhere it sounds like a great trip. At first I wasn't too convinced and thought it was a perhaps a bit too varied for my taste, but after a couple of rounds listening to it, it actually sounded great. A journey indeed through all of these various styles of music, bouncing back and forth between nature and (almost) dance floor material, with Tillotson's voice adding something you don't hear a lot in this kind of music, the human touch perhaps? This is a great work, if you like your ambience and dance combined.- Vital Weekly #847
Downtempo electronica and ambient dance.
Desatero is an album of highly individual, meandering wonder. The music seems very mood focussed, luxuriating in lush, beguiling character ambience. The range of sound sources is impressive: a sprinkling of ethnic instrumentation - whistles, chimes, kalimba, hand drums; various synthetic elements such as swish and hum, liquid twinkles, sequencer patterns, techno effects and bass pulses as well as an intriguing selection of found sounds like footsteps crunching in the snow, birds singing, simulated hospital sounds, city hum from the 19th floor of a Bangkok hotel, various antique time pieces, and scientific recordings of the magnetic fields of Jupiter converted into sound. A number of tracks also feature vocal material, be it in the form of spoken word samples and phrases; morphed electro-speak, international vocalising or understated male and female singing. There are some beat driven tracks such as the psytrance tinted Green Fridge with muted kick and peculiar laboratory vibe. There are pieces with subtle rhythm and texture made up of both percussive instruments and field recorded ephemera. There are tracks where beats almost drop away into the mists and soft focus hazes of the music
Desatero is delivered in an eye-catching card wallet of two sections. The front cover image shows a striking white face painted almost to androgyny, a blood red clutch of berries held in the teeth. Against the pale backdrop the berries and the smudge of red upon the lips burst in vibrant contrast. The rear cover holds a similar picture to the left in a vertical slice; the remainder is ivory white ground and simple fonts, providing track titles and label details. Inside the same pattern is followed with harlequin diamonds framing the same face, gazing across the inner panels. Here are words for the lyrical pieces to the left and credits to the right.
Northcore is a UK based duo comprised of producer, composer, performer Carl Gibbons and composer, performer, lyricist Jana Tillotson. Northcore has built up a solid reputation for live psytrance and techno performance, but here we are introduced to the more contemplative, downtempo nature of the project. Taking the Czech term Desatero, meaning “a set of ten works” - the ten pieces here are very evocative, personal and atmospheric. The album is released via the Spotted Peccary O3E label and can be obtained in a variety of electronic formats as well as CD hard copy.