The Magnetic North explore spiritual dimension with Prospect of Skelmersdale

Prospect of Skelmersdale'Jai Guru Dev' is a blessing in the Transcendental Meditation movement, delivered when entering a house. It also sets the urban meets mystical tone of The Magnetic North’s second album Prospect of Skelmersdale, as the title of a short lullaby overture. Having debuted with Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North, a powerful sequence of songs inspired by the island where singer Erland Cooper was raised, the trio have turned their attention to another member Simon Tong’s hometown, Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, for the follow-up.

Designated a new town in 1961, Skelmersdale quickly fell into decline. Then, in a bizarre twist of fate, it became the headquarters of the Transcendental Meditation movement in the 80s. The local population was expanded by families looking to live peace-promoting lives with an overriding ambition to spread goodwill to the town and beyond. Among them was Tong’s family.

All three band members explored and researched the town, drawing inspiration from the area and its short and peculiar history of urban decline and spiritual growth. The trio tried to steer away from the orchestral arrangements that powered their Orkney album in favour of a more quirky granular sound. But whether they work with an extensive or basic palette the music is never underwhelming. Lo-fi folk blends with rich string arrangements and exquisite interplay between vocalists Erland Cooper and Hannah Peel while found recordings such as documentaries, public information films and even sat-nav directions are frequently worked into the mix.

"Death in The Woods" is a particularly captivating number with jaunty, fairytale folk and whispered lyrics offering enticing glimpses of a town endowed with magic and mystery. "Signs" covers the whole spectrum of low and high production values. It opens with what sounds like an Open University lecture and a grainy drum machine. Acoustic guitar strumming accompanies murmuring vocals which are slowly wrapped in expansive string arrangements.

"Exit" is more sparse. Piano and guitar melodies give prominence to tender lyrics. A crescendo of strings gently builds and collapses as fireworks explode. It feels like the end of the main act with the remaining three songs providing a sublime encore. "The Silver Birch" gushes frolicking melodies, "Northway Southway" is mighty and gentle and a cover of "Run of The Mill" by George Harrison, a famous early advocate of Transcendental Meditation, ties the album up neatly.

Prospect of Skelmersdale presents a hazy sequence of tales and images. It’s not easy to piece together or get one’s bearings, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s music to get lost in as the trio transcend the bricks and mortar of the mundane world to reach a higher plain.

Release: 18th March 2016, Full Time Hobby


One Response to “The Magnetic North explore spiritual dimension with Prospect of Skelmersdale”

  1. Jens 15/03/2016 at 3:31 pm #

    Yeah, great record. Thanks for sharing..

    In my words:

    Jens / guteshoerenistwichtig

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