Image © Siren Music Productions 2004
More This Side Of North:
Willow, Mariana, Christina
Image © Siren Music Productions 2005
(27 March 2005) This Side of North's self titled debut album is a dreamy masterpiece with fifteen tracks and one haunting guitar piece that is a lovely hidden track at the end. This is a Los Angeles- and New York-based band comprised of three extraordinarily talented women who met as music grad students at Cal Arts. They are Mariana Bernoski, Christina Agamanolis and Willow Williamson. They have worked together in the last four years on film sound tracks. And this is how we actually became aware of these brilliant musicians.
It was while watching the indie film Dahmer on the Sundance channel. Part of the powerful draw to the narrative was the intensely intimate sound that underscored the movie. I then realized that I had to learn more about these women who at the time were named Siren. Now with their debut as This Side of North, they bring an ultra surreal and moody soundscape infused with vintage keys, lush guitar textures, funky filtered loops, electronic synth samples, live drum grooves and gritty bass guitar.
On this album they teamed up with producer/engineer DJ Orion Keyser and associate producer Lee Mars of Nine Inch Nails. They also recorded with Drummer Chris Vrenna of Nine Inch Nails. There are many great contributed performances from various other musicians on this album as well. Harris Eisenstadt on vibes, Tony Green and Warren Kaye on Bass. Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon and Jessica Catron on cello. The recordings are amazingly pristine, and have a lucidity and warmth that washes over you in honeyed waves of comfort and clarity.
This album creates a narcotic landscape of seductively beautiful melody and rhythm. The unpredictability of the melodies trajectory and the chord changes truly rescue you from other typically self- indulgent music. This is deeply intelligent and well thought out music with a higher consciousness. And while the themes seem to weave the entire albums sensibility together in a cohesive and spacious tapestry of solitary emotions, each song stands on its own without sounding like one played out thought. This band is so completely original, and the songwriting including lyrics and productions are deliciously painful journeys of the universal human disconnectedness. Their music is perfect at creating this kind of emotional atmosphere.
Every performance is executed with skill and every musician's contribution is so masterfully well placed, Every loop and sound wash is an empathetic vibration that strikes deep in the nerves. The vocals are breathtaking, sweetly sad, Velveteen and pure as hell. It is hard to single out particular tracks on this album because it is such a journey that you take, and each song a necessary road, but if I had to stop and linger on a few I would say that "Blue Song," "Ground Level" and the gorgeous untitled hidden track are among my favorite tracks.
Also, "Frequency" is absolutely beautiful and the lyrics are unanswerable in that haunting metaphysical way, like a great story of two mysterious lovers. "Driving," "Five Four," "Puppet" and "Love Affair with the Sun" are some more of my personal favorites. I think that This Side of North will appeal to anyone that just loves great songwriting, sweet and sensual vocals, masterful imagery through sound and musicianship that is beyond the ordinary. There is a film out there somewhere that longs to be tethered to this album's soundtrack as its mask. This Side of North is one of the best new bands to emerge on the scene and I hope they continue to paint more dreams for us to revel in. Order the album through the band's website.--Jo Gabriel in Madison, Wisconsin with Russ Elliot in New York