NORTH is a gifted producer and dedicated vocalist, but his greatest potential lies within his ability to curate and manipulate masses of sound.
A recent single from Irish producer and rapper NORTH, “OPTIONS”, is an unhinged tangle of melodic threads. Icy pads bend uncontrollably upwards whilst threatening spines of distorted noise taunt and stab the listener. Amongst it all, rapper Mb Goosie drops line after line of dejected lyrics, keeping the chaos in check with a measured cadence. When NORTH finally enters at almost two minutes in he wastes no time. His militant shouts tell the audience that he alone is master of this realm. He emerges from the shadows for just long enough to remind the listener that, no matter how twisted and unnatural, the sounds before them have a creator. He will not be ignored.
More than anything “OPTIONS” shows NORTH as a curator. His dexterity as a producer is nothing new and his vocals are still imperfect but serviceable. Ceding two thirds of the song to his guest is a risky move, as many times a featured artist can run away with the song and make it their own in the eyes of the listener. However, NORTH is so distinct in accent, delivery and presence that he doesn’t need long on the mic to make his mark. His rapping is a secondary asset, a loaded pistol to compliment the heavy artillery of his production. As an organiser of music, a composer, an auteur – NORTH holds nothing back.
The musical waters on which NORTH sails were first truly captured with “INAUGURATION”. This introductory piece plays out as an experiment in various textures, with a few detached voices appearing in a vast plane of reverb and synthetic instrumentation. Though “INAUGURATION” was not NORTH’s first musical output, it was the point at which the threads of his ideas coalesced. It is high-efficiency music, dense with layers of bass and drum patterns that skitter and compound over and over. “CHERRY RED” is a wonderful example, with feverish hi-hat patterns battling an enormous bassline against delayed bells. Often, “INAUGURATION” drifts into the sphere of EDM, or even ambient music. It is guided and occasionally persuaded by the conventions of modern hip-hop, but sees these codes as purely suggestive.
Where “OPTIONS” features a vocal appearance, several songs on this debut album feature no verses from the artist. On “MUTARE”, blvck mvss appears alone as a lost wanderer, trapped within the salvaged clips and gripping drums NORTH deploys. “ROUTING” is Zave’s estranged whisper in harmony with peaceful melodies. NORTH rarely lets anything out of his grip though, and in the context of a larger project it’s difficult for a single feature to dominate the listener’s memory. There are mixing issues, sure, but for a first
outing “INAUGURATION” lays a pretty airtight foundation.
“SUBSIDED” appeared shortly after “INAUGURATION” as a follow up, but also as a companion piece. This second album sees NORTH on the mic for nearly every song, a direct contrast to his sparse vocal presence on his debut. The bars here are slow and sibilant, occasionally atmospheric but not truly engaging. Aesthetically “SUBSIDED” is a dark affair. “BRINK” is gothic and grand, with lyrics that evoke images of death and isolation in a crazed tone. The whole album is set at a slower pace, with sophisticated mimicry of analog sound as well as wildly imaginative synth work. Title track “SUBSIDED” uses echo and reverb to spectacular effect, capping off the project with confidence.
“ROPES”, the latest album in this artist’s discography, has already been reviewed by 108 MICS. There is, however, a little more to gain from further comparison. The mixing of vocals here is vastly improved, and NORTH’s performances are leaps and bounds beyond any seen before. Songs like “LISTENCLOSE” have genuine flow and engaging themes. Instrumentally the project is not a combination but a separately themed expansion of previous work. Yet again, the role of curator comes naturally to NORTH, bringing everything back to “OPTIONS”. Listening again after diving into NORTH’s discography evidences a style constructed through much trial, error, reworking, resourcefulness, and development. This position of curator has been earned. It is NORTH’s place, and through the music he outputs, the audience will know it. He will not be ignored.
Listen to “OPTIONS” here.
Follow NORTH on Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Music.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)