“When, disturbed, a grouse hiccups into flight
Low through the mists which are thick with light;
When this could be some damp city alley
Where children and drunks meet principally
For love, and to solemnly keep their trysts
For all that the outside world still exists –
Know this, the old walker you overtake
Is yourself, setting a different pace.“
Taken from the poem ‘The North York Moors’ by Christopher Woodall
Music can be a soundtrack for many things and the ambient, chilled out and sparse soundscapes delivered by Great North Star remind me of wild places and, coming from Yorkshire as I do, they don’t get much wilder than the North York Moors so this insightful poem really resonated with me when listening to the insightful duos latest album, imaginatively titled ‘II’…
Great North Star are Dean Thom (guitars) and Phil Considine (production), two seasoned musicians from the UK progressive and alternative music scenes. Each brings to the table a wealth of writing, recording and live experience. Through a deep understanding of each other’s compositional strengths, honed through many hours of performing together, the music they create rewards the listener with a complex tapestry of rich textures and shifting moods.
Hailing from the wild moorlands of Northern England, Great North Star mould intricate guitar and muted electronica into a unique whole: haunting, introspective and expansive. Their sound draws from progressive and post-rock, electronica, krautrock and ambient influences to produce a panoramic and cinematic soundscape, the perfect soundtrack for long, lonely walks over rolling hills under brooding skies. Great North Star invite you to explore the lesser trodden path.
Before we delve a bit more into the album itself, more on that title from Dean himself; “I do tend to have a picture of a time and place or a feeling/emotion in my head when I’m writing music, so I find it’s not too difficult to name individual pieces, but as for naming an album it just seemed odd to us to give a collective name to the eight pieces, so we figured calling it ‘II’ was just fine on the reckoning that it was ok for the mighty Led Zep and Queen.“
‘II’ is a musically concise release coming in at a mere forty two minute running time but Dean and Phil manage to fit a lot into that forty minutes. A wide and expansive soundscape where it’s often what’s between the notes that counts, as much as the notes themselves. Nothing is wasted, there’s no filler, any piece of music is there intentionally, down to the last note and this makes for a wonderfully immersive listening experience. Central to this is Dean’s wistful, delicate and eminently expressive guitar playing. Just sit back and listen to tracks like Towers Will Fall, Beginnings and Seven Stones on Hordron Edge with their deeply meaningful feeling, the guitar is like a nostalgic voice going back in time to regale us with tales once lost in the mists of time. Tales of wistful melancholy and sombre reflection that draw the listener into their welcoming embrace.
The ambient soundscapes created by Phil add the requisite mystery and contemplative yearning, especially on opener A Nightime Storm at Sea with its theramin style opening and staccato percussion before the delightful guitar joins in. The intelligent and insightful songwriting is at the core to everything that you hear and creates an ocean of harmonious serenity which comes to place perfectly on the closing piece Northlands, a brilliantly constructed beacon of calm attunement that left me chilled out and at one with the world.
Great North Star create wide, expansive soundscapes that speak of the wild and carefree, of places that our sensitive souls would rush to in a heartbeat, a musical oasis, so to speak and, with their sophomore effort, they have delivered an antidote to the mundanity and horror of the modern world in which we live.
Released 6th October, 2023.
Order from bandcamp here: