Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review, Mark Northfield, Ascendant

**I already published my usual blog post; look a few posts before this one**

Review, Mark Northfield, Ascendant

2007, P+C Substantive Recordings

Ascendant is Mark Northfield's second album; an accomplished accompanist for organizations such as London Contemporary Dance School and the Royal Academy of Dance, he turned to creating and recording his own compositions in the early part of this decade. His first album Anachronisms remains unreleased (that brings perfectionist to a whole new level); however, mp3s for both of his albums are available at his website.

Mark Northfield's compositions on Ascendant glide, gracefully transitioning from the utterly betwitching and transcendent ("Waiting For Green", "Zero") to a restrained, uncluttered piece of chamber music ("Our Father") with crisp, unadorned vocals, then on to an understated piano piece with jazzy vocals similar to Brendan Perry's of Dead Can Dance ("Resistance"). Moments of the album soar with the bombast (in a good way) of an Andrew Lloyd Webber song ("Sleeping Beauty") and one piece hops with an undisguised cabaret vibe ("Decidedly Dumb"). In "Calm" voices soar, intone and implore in a magnificent and electrifying madrigal that fades into a solo male vocal perfomance, calm and at odds with the fervor of the crowd. This tumultuous tumbling between moods within the songs is very indicative of the album as a whole. It is a culmination of many styles, all threaded throughout the composition: an album that's different at each interval, but blends effortlessly to form a cohesive album of music.

The songs are threaded together with bits of music reminiscent of the interludes placed throughout the three This Mortal Coil albums of the late 80's and early 90's. As his website states, Ascendant "is also designed to be heard (in a shuffle-free world) from start to finish". I would recommend listening to it this way; much of the artistry of the composition is in the placement of songs in relation to other songs. The interludes certainly wouldn't be as effective if they lead into your secret Abba collection.

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