Northumbria – Markland (Cryo Chamber, 2017)


We talked about the tantalising world of discovery only recently in Hakobune’s Landfall, a record of elongate drone pieces that seemed filled with promise and optimism, the future to be found on some distant shore both mysterious yet compelling. Northumbria gives Hakobune’s dreams of discovery a more physical dimension in Markland, a record that wills us to take the place of Norse explorers first coming across the shores of Canada all those centuries ago. It is not the happy-go-lucky dreamworld we previously heard, but one filled with harsh realities.

Menace often feels close in many of the pieces here, most notably in the aptly titled “The Night Wolves/Black Moon”, whose early moments are filled with distant howling and whining, animal threats lurking in the unseen wilderness of this strange and unexplored land, fear exacerbated by the threat of the unknown. It’s a long piece, torturous almost as it slowly expands outwards into the endless night ahead, moving increasingly towards a calamitous and overwhelming conclusion that weighs heavy with the weight of the world, the situation burying the senses in suffocating imposition. Threat of the unknown reappears later in “The Shores of the Suffering Wind”; sliding by in placid and glassy waters, the paradoxical safety of land transforms into trouble. Hidden reefs and shallow waters spell doom, and the quiet focus in the drone minimalism here makes it plain that attention is elsewhere.

Fear of the darkness and the uncertainty that comes with it is a notable vein throughout; siblings “Low Sun I” and “Low Sun II” lend an elemental power to the light, with the former lost in a shimmering mass of obfuscating, granulated electronica that seethes with a loathing for the coming darkness. The latter is rather more restrained and refined however; alarm is there, certainly, but there’s a quiet nod to beauty here as the sky shifts to purple and navy hues, energy dissipating out of the atmosphere as the shadows stretch and deform in silent mockery. Praise of the Sun however is most obvious in the reverberant and echoic hollows of “Sunstone”, stringed drone lines reaching out like tendrils into the chilly void of its backdrop, the Winter Sun scarcely warming the harsh and deprived expanses of a cold and desolate land, unveiling a place to these new explorers of disappointing minimalism.

Though there are a few moments of wonderment and lightness littered throughout; “Ostara’s Return” marks a distinct turning point for our pioneers after the Night Wolves, worshipping the Spring Equinox and the rejuvenation that it brings. Healing light spreads through in rich, luxuriant movements, rays unwinding in slow motion as they touch this dead world and transform it before our very eyes, melting water and summoning green somethings from grey earth. Arguably more notable is penultimate”Wonderstrands”, whose glossy guitar shards scrape through deep, ethereal airs and luxurious drones, its entire being bathed in light and contentment, satisfied at the end of all things before returning home in the dizzying emptiness of “The Stars As My Guide”, riding the thin edge between celestial and abyssal back to familiar shores.