For Fans Of
Atmospheric, haunting, poignant. Words that resonate upon first listen of ‘Great North‘, the sophomore studio album from Melbourne-based instrumental post-rock quintet Fourteen Nights at Sea. Throughout six tracks totaling forty minutes, the band craft a record that reflects the album’s wintery, desolate cover artwork with eerie accuracy.
‘Great North‘ begins calm and inviting with opener ‘Glass Monster’ building a slow, serene backdrop of delicate guitar and strings. A gradual shift into more anxious, melancholic territory leads to a dynamic, powerful crescendo that introduces the listener to Fourteen Nights at Sea‘s modus operandi as far as ‘Great North‘ is concerned – exploring a range of emotions and environments often within each track; making smooth transitions between. Ten-minute epic ‘Tired Hands’ captures the fragile, the forceful and the tranquil without feeling disjointed.
What Fourteen Nights at Sea manage to achieve best with ‘Great North‘ is a sense of coherence. While creating a variety of textural surroundings between each song, there’s still a somewhat cinematic quality to the way the album’s residing imagery of the bitter, unforgiving cold and sense of isolation feel present from beginning to end. In this way, ‘Great North‘ feels more like a long piece of music split into six parts, ultimately giving off an impression of being far more “together” than on the band’s debut self-titled album. This can, however, lead to a sense of repetitiveness, and the fact the album’s tempo remains at snail’s pace for most of the record can be grating at times.
That said, there are flourishes of clear distinction throughout. Most obvious is perhaps second song ‘Stalking Horse’, a quite harsh track that through being undoubtedly the most meancing of the album, is instantly evocative of bleak hopelessness. It’s not an easy or particularly gentle piece of music to take in, but the sensation of intense, sub-zero temperatures developed are compelling – contradicting with the boiling hot Summer only just passed the band’s home city.
Album closer ‘Ghost’ is by far the most stirring on the record and a fine way to lead out. Of note is the way it eschews the post-rock cliché of buildup/climax dynamics, kicking off loud and sharp, gradually stripping away the noise until left with a single, sustained guitar like a faint, fading siren in the distance.
With ‘Great North’, Fourteen Nights at Sea prove themselves more than capable of constructing vivid sonic landscapes that capture a range of moods and environments. Evocative, strong and focused, the thematic images of solitude found in freezing desolation make the album’s release date apt – prime listening as we head into colder months of the year.
1. Glass Monster
2. Stalking Horse
3. Country Victoria
4. Tired Hands