LCNL 080: Dorian Williamson’s Northern Solace


Suddenly 80 mixes seems like quite a lot.  I’m really pleased to hit another significant milestone, after 5 years of ACL and this mix series, I love that I can still be surprised with each new installment.  This mix comes from Dorian Williamson (Northumbria, Adoran) and features an excursion into dark ambient and drone that feels really timely.  (Joseph Sannicandro)

Please introduce yourself. What do you do? How’d you get involved in music, etc?

My name is Dorian Williamson, and I play bass in the ambient band Northumbria with guitarist Jim Field. We played together briefly in the post-rock band Holoscene in 2009-10, but have known each other for years. When that band ceased to be, we took a break and reformed in early 2012 as a two piece, mainly to explore longer form, largely improvised guitar-based ambient music. I was very used to structure, whereas Jim has always been very heavily into improvising, so it pushed me in a new direction, conceptually and musically. I also work in location sound, and bring some of that to the band in terms of field recordings and production. My other main outlet is Adoran with Aidan Baker, which is more of a kind of spectral sludge; live bass and drums.

What’s the scene like where you live, or in your area more broadly?

There’s quite a lot happening in Toronto in terms of experimental and ambient music, although I’m a bit separated from it now having moved out of the city to Northumberland County. Weird Canada, a national arts collective, has organized an annual event called Drone Day, with shows happening not only in Toronto but across many Canadian cities. Northumbria’s performed twice over the last couple of years, once in Montreal and last year in Toronto at a show organized by the Ambient Ping, a long running organization that curates and presents monthly nights of ambient and electronic music. Another monthly event is Nite Comfort, operated by Aaron Dawson of Dirty Inputs. Several local promoters such as Tad Michalak (Burn Down the Capitol) and Jason Pollard (InvocationTO) regularly put on very progressive shows featuring experimental/ambient/drone etc. The Music Gallery is another longstanding venue for experimental music. Now Magazine a free weekly paper, and Exclaim, a free monthly paper, also regularly profile a wide array of local artists.

Tell us a bit about the mix.

I guess I treat a mix in the same way I treat the track selection/composition when creating one of my own releases. Finding songs that help to create a sense of narrative, and fit well together in terms of dynamics and tone. Once I have the tracks I want for the whole, I drop them into Logic and start playing around with order, fades and some signal processing, to create a cohesive listen. It’s different for each one, but the one common thing is usually some sort of theme I want to convey.

In the case of this mix I chose tracks that have been inspiring during the last few months. I’ve been deeply immersed in quite dark ambient music of late, so I’ve been playing stuff that falls a bit outside of that genre while tracking and mixing the new record.

What’s coming up on the horizon for you?

We just finished the next Northumbria record, Markland, which is coming out this March on Cryo Chamber. It’s the second installment in a trilogy (the first being 2015’s Helluland) inspired by the Norse discovery of Canada. Markland translates roughly from Old Norse to “The Land of the Forests” or “Forest-land”. Most people agree that it was likely the northern coast of Labrador. Jim and I have found that period of exploration really inspiring, albeit in a very abstract and subjective way. It’s a nice way to inject a subtle narrative into the music.


1. SiJ & Texture Oris – “Behind the Window”
2. Oneirogen – “Held”
3. Kevin Hufnagel – “Silence, this is the Transformatorium”
4. Sabled Sun – “A World Emptied”
5. thisquietarmy – “Métamorphose VI – Tu aimerais parfois te retirer de ta matière”
6. Noveller – “Pulse Point”
7. Anthene – “Decline”
8. IIVII – “Shaping Itself from Dust”
9. Furthers – “Lovely Emerald Birds and Velvet Dolphins”

About Joseph Sannicandro

writer | traveler | sound organizer | contrarian | concerned citizen

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