Review: Mark Harris - An Idea Of North / Learning To Walk

Having been snowed into his studio back in Winter 2010, Mark Harris melted down his feelings of isolation and fed them straight into 44 minutes of improvisation. Unlike the situation in which the record was composed, Harris’ composition feels liberated and free to roam between atmospheres; An Idea of North/Learning To Walk is a fantasy, and captures a sound artist’s yearning for the outside, the beyond and the imaginary.

Yet it’s not simply a shimmering journey through a series of bright, picturesque environments. What begins as a stroll through a tropical downpour – caught within warm, glutinous rainfall that catches the glimmering light of synthesizers – soon ventures upward, becoming lost within the rumbling beckon of incoming storms and swamped by an open mass of sky. The musical elements become thinner and ascend into the high frequencies, effortlessly overwhelmed by the ominous low-end of the harsh winds and white noise waves that comprise the field recordings.

Harris sets the sound of music in a constant seesaw with the sound of the natural world: the two are constantly in motion, swapping between the backdrop and the fore. The way they dance and embrace is enchanting, with each feeding off the influence of the other and slotting into a beautiful whole. While there’s little new about the sounds Harris utilises in his marriage of field recording and electronics (string and flute-like synths, birdsong, rainwater, wind), the dynamic he sparks between them is of a mastery that only a minority can lay claim to. Very pretty.