Fans of Eilean Records know that the label assigns colors and seasons to all of its releases. North is their first release of winter, synaesthetically described as white/grey. The colors fit, as the album shifts gently into the bleached colors of the coldest season.
The cover fits as well, a stark yet appealing snowscape, revealing a light array of scattered refraction. This is a pure winter album in concept and execution. Calming yet challenging, occasionally dark yet suffused with light, North reflects a winter state of mind, inviting listeners to sink ever so softly into its cushions.
In compiling these sounds, Jonathan Kawchuk uses a three-step process. The original layer is comprised of field recordings collected in Norway, Canada, Iceland, and Portugal. Then a second recording in Norway’s Jostedal National Park, the home of continental Europe’s largest glacier. Then the guests and post-production arrive. This all comes together coldly and cleanly, as Kawchuk’s piano is joined by cello, heartbeats, and a new array of guest performers. The end result is a sedate set, acknowledging the change of seasons with calm acceptance.
While North begins and ends quietly, Kawchuk’s ivories burst into bloom on the penultimate tracks, “Fast Twitch” and “Bodied”. It’s as if to say that the season need not be feared, but holds a secret joy. Held back for most of the short set, the composer dives into these pieces with contagious excitement, flurries giving way to measurable snowfall. As the season unfolds, listeners may find company and consolation in these sounds; frigid air need not mean frigid hearts. (Richard Allen)