I Spell It Nature, a group of Ottawans who once defined their music as “just messing around with computer mics,” released an album last month called NORTH. It’s so much more than any kind of messing around. It’s their sophomore full-length on top of two EPs since March 2010. Greg Choo, Jon Fortin, Korby Martin, Andrew Fishenden & Dom Patnaik successfully recorded an ambient LP with Steve Foley at the Audio Valley Recording Studio. Without a word sung, it’s a post-rock story of a life well-lived.
I’ve taken this long to write about an album that was released on Oct. 14 because I discovered it a few days before November. This month being National Novel Writing Month, I didn’t see much hope for an album review in the midst of the 50,000 words I had to churn out in 30 days. But on my NaNoWriMo quest I found myself going back to NORTH regularly, to get lost in the instrumentals that make up a very enjoyable study aid. It’s been hard not to write about this album.
NORTH is not doomed to be background music, however. Layered piano and languid guitar transition into uplifting crescendos that induce a fortitude that can translate into more creativity. In my case, more words written per minute!
“Hands of Time” speeds up the percussion around the three-minute mark to match a galloping guitar finger-picking. They chase each other up a mountain and off a cliff, without missing a beat. A quick look at the song titles makes me think of an adventure’s beginning and ending: “The Courage To Leave,” “If Nothing Goes Right, Go Left,” “Explore the World,” and “Arrivals.” One criticism I have is at times “The View From Here” felt like it was stuck on repeat, simply because the subtle changes from each section were too subtle. It did not ascend the way other songs did.
The band has progressed though, just as “of, relating to, or resembling a colossus” takes on a brighter form than its first likeness on their debut I Spell It Nature EP. A warbling intro is traded up for a straight-to-the-punch melody that rises so quickly it gets to soaring, ending the album with the distortion that so many post-rock bands overplay. We are held fast throughout the album and rewarded in the last seconds with a grungy sound that serves perfectly well as an ellipsis saying “the end?”
For this Ottawa sound, hopefully not.