Monday, February 27, 2012

An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk - Mark Harris

An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk

Mark Harris
n5MD Records.

SCQ Rating: 75%

Whatever freedom lies at the heart of instrumental music, be it post-rock’s life-affirming crescendos or electronic music’s textural abyss, it’s magnified to the ethers when we’re dealing with field-recordings. To be a listener in the absence of voice – okay. But separated from the very intricacies of traditional or avant-garde composition – the instruments, the progressions – well, that’s a whole new world of freedom.

If all of this “absence” talk sounds impossible to navigate, rest easy: An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk notes its own intangible compass in the title. Audio/visual artist Mark Harris furthermore gives the listener direction at the onset with “Softly Lies Sleeping”, with natural sounds of distant waves, bird calls and rustling trees – or is that rain upon a roof? In either case, Harris’ establishing shot encompasses a smattering of field recordings that are highly suggestive and well integrated. A sneaky choral of synth curls around the track’s property, merging with the liquid cascade and transforming into the ambient “In Slow Motion She Falls”. An immaculately clean album, An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk doesn’t throw many anchors for listeners to depend on; its ample negative space somehow sounds bright and tracks slide gracefully into one another like the currents of a stream. So when a rare and overt melody constructs itself amid the title track’s Beaches and Canyons-indebted standstill, it transfixes and briefly restricts the listener’s sedated daydreaming.

It’s easy to lose concentration and allow a sound-design record like An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk to just thrive along the walls of one’s room. As much a soundtrack for existing as a mental journey in our own hands, Harris’ work contains its share of themes and percolating ideas just waiting to be uncovered and made personal. 

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