Ireland’s NORTH returns with a loose handful of new material; “ROPES” is an opportunity for the artist to reflect on how best to coalesce his various talents.

LISTENCLOSE”, the opening track of Irish artist NORTH’s new album “ROPES” is a beautifully clustered affair. Various textures of sound are layered atop one another, wispy guitar notes echo unanswered as a ghostly flute slices through the mix. There’s also a compound effect on NORTH’s vocals, his one verse soaked in reverb and recorded multiple times to increase the song’s sonic density. Despite all this, “LISTENCLOSE” is not a claustrophobic experience. An instinctive producer, NORTH loosens his grip at several moments throughout the track’s two and a half minutes, letting the beat ride unaccompanied. Like all of the best moment’s on “ROPES”, “LISTENCLOSE” puts NORTH’s strengths as a producer and sonic organiser first, whilst allowing room for his rapping skills to develop as well.

Though NORTH’s production still outshines his vocal performances, he sounds far more comfortable on tracks like “FINDER” and title track “ROPES” than he did on his last album, “SUBSIDED”. “ROPES” is the best example; over a glass-like synth progression the artist sings and raps with confidence. When NORTH proclaims “the difference with me is like night and day”, he not only builds the idea of duality but acknowledges his constant growth. “I stay just way back, that way I don’t have to interact” plays into the concept of NORTH as a producer in the classic sense of the word, overseeing his record’s creation from start to finish and in minute detail. This commitment is reflected in the often unpredictable chord progressions and consistently precise composition of his music.

After “ROPES” concludes, and before too much is said, the album’s second phase begins. The second half of the record consists of instrumentals, and all of them are pure auditory confectionary. The crushed, sustained chords of “INFINITY” pair exceptionally with wavy, voice like tones and NORTH’s vicious trademark bass. “LONG TIME NO SEE” is an exercise in urgency. Synths reminiscent of alarms swirl above a mix of plunging bass and chanting voices. Final track “F5” epitomises the place “ROPES” holds in NORTH’s expanding discography. Much of the soundscape is familiar, the snares and warping bells especially, but there are also roomier passages and a chiptune – style melody. “F5” offers a point of reflection, a chance to look backwards and forwards at once.

ROPES” is not as grand a project as NORTH’s other albums, but it has no need to be. It’s a well rounded showcase of skills; some the artist has already mastered, and some he has yet to perfect. Of the brief eighteen minutes on offer not one is wasted – the album is an entirely necessary checkpoint on NORTH’s ongoing journey.

Listen to “ROPEShere.

Follow NORTH on Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Music.

– Jamie (@youngjade1216)

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