The Northern British Summertime has begun in earnest, initiated by black skies split by lightning, lashing rain and a thunderstorm of biblical proportions. Our gardens were flooded, the roads were gridlocked, and the horizon remains oppressively ominous. Though the Wimbledon tennis rages against the dying golden light and the white wine flows elsewhere, we in the North will have to wait for our dog days.
Yet there’s no lack of sturdy Northern music to complement this foreboding weather; we make an art-form of what, for us, is an everyday occurrence. The broody Let’s Buy Happiness create an orchestral ode to stormy street corners with the delicate and wispy ‘Works Better on Paper’, and the soulful voice of Blackpool-born Rae Morris is the very essence of buffeted sea-walls and shingle on ‘Don’t Go’, a wounded and innocent cry over bleak chords. Easing the noisy air are the hauntingly crafted intricacies of Ajimal, the one-man sound architect whose creations have been looping through my head with welcome perseverance. Beautiful in its concise creativity and the life-affirming content of its character, ‘Footnote to Love (Part One)’ is a stifled yet expressive howl; vivid and poignant, wrought from truth and earnest emotion. B-side ‘Amputated Years’ is equally unshackled in its excellence, as Fran O’Hanlon’s quivering and complete vocals burn and scorch. It is essential that you hear this.
Fear not though, we northerners are nothing if not optimistic. Brighter days are inevitable, and if anything, our cobbled streets and coastlines look all the better for the occasional downpour. Never doubt the restorative powers of a good thunderstorm, or the value of a proper coat. To prove a point, leading the charge are Maximo Park with ‘Take Me Home’, a homespun ditty sodden with northern pragmatism and romance in equal measures. Regardless of the rain the festival season continues to arrive, and alongside the whisperings that hint at warmer days, comes a raft of hazy and electrifying summer music.
The bursting colours of the Byker-based Mammal Club are the infectious antidote to prolonged showers, with the bristling and supercharged mathematical groove of new track ‘Painting’ quickening the blood into a falsetto-induced flux. Likewise, ‘Otter’ seems scientifically certain to conjure footloose frivolity, building from gorgeous simplicity into ludicrous exuberance. From South Shields come The Railway Club and new single ‘Broken Strings’, an interwoven duet that takes bold strides from wintry dimness to summer dreaminess. For those favouring the bright and eclectic, lend an ear to ‘Starchild’ and ‘New Dawn’, the results of Newcastle boy Apollo Gets the Girl – his seeming fascination being with spectral soundscapes born from science fiction and synthesizers. For those desiring the scuzzy and lo-fi, Cinematic Submarine clatters out something altogether more visceral with ‘iGore’ and ‘F Song’, discontented yelps over fuzzy crackle and sharp riffs. To chronicle your carefree escapades Blank Maps offer ‘IDST’, three minutes of woozy perfection. Sundown will sound like pioneering Sunderland boys Field Music; taken from the album Plumb, ‘A New Town’ remains a cool slice of ever-addictive funk.
The great joy of the festival is possibility; seek out the new and the extraordinary. To inspire, try Bradford outfit The Family Elan, a fusion of melodic Turkish folk, Bollywood deconstructions and psychedelic rock grandeur, played on the bouzouki, elektrosaz and countless other weird and wonderful instruments. Utterly mystifying and majestic, ‘The Black Planets of Her Eyes’ is the enthralling sound that will stupefy you in some hidden and far-flung festival field. If it all becomes a little too much, simply drift to Fossil Collective; taken from their debut Let it Go EP, ‘Guaratuba’ echoes and reverberates like it just washed up on the sand.
Fingers crossed for warmer days to come. Should it continue to pour, there’s always escapism in your headphones. Hunt down this music, and maybe the horizons will start to look a little better.
BEYOND NORTHERN ROCK RECOMMENDS:
1. Mammal club – Painting (Newcastle upon Tyne)
2. Let’s Buy Happiness – Dirty Lakes / Works Better on Paper (Tyneside)
3. Ajimal – Footnote to Love Part One
4. Rae Morris – Don’t Go (Blackpool)
5. The Railway Club – Broken Strings (South Shields)
6. Apollo Gets the Girl – Starchild (Newcastle)
7. Cinematic submarine – F Song (Northumberland)
8. Blank Maps – IDST
9. The Family Elan – The Black Planets Of Her Eyes
10. Fossil Collective – Guaratuba
-Geraint Ellis (@geraintlellis)