The Magnetic North – in session for Marc Riley – BBC 6 Music – May 10, 2012 – BBC 6 Music –
The Magnetic North to end out the week. In session for Marc Riley at BBC 6 Music and broadcast on May 10, 2012.
The Magnetic North are a true one-off; a questing band who’ve made two peerless albums – wholly evocative musical travelogues each tracing song lines around the geographical heritage of one of the band’s members.
Main songwriter and singer Erland Cooper was born and brought up in Orkney, and says he was visited in a dream and told to make a record about his home islands. His bandmates Hannah Peel and Simon Tong, meanwhile, are from the north of England. All three immersed themselves in Orcadian history and folklore when writing and recording the record, resulting in a piece that benefits from both the knowledge and veracity of a local and the fresh eyes of incomers.
Cooper previously released music with Erland and the Carnival, reworking folk songs disrespectfully, while Tong is previously of The Verve and The Good, the Bad and the Queen. Cooper’s voice does recall Damon Albarn at his most crooning but also has the Isles accents – a softer Celtic lilt than that of mainland Scotland – breaking through.
Cooper conceived Symphony Of… as a record to listen to while travelling north to Orkney and the songs are named after places, mainly landmarks surrounding the harbour town of Stromness where he grew up. This is an effective strategy which roots the music in geography yet is also potentially dangerous: before you press play, there are images, associations – the album meaning more to someone who knows the islands. But places are given new angles: ‘Old Man of Hoy’, named after a colossal rock sea stack, becomes an elderly gent remembering “life times never go the way you choose / feels like they run away from you”.
For a reminder, or introduction – here is The Magnetic North as they appeared on Marc Riley’s show for BBC 6 Music in May of 2012.
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