"New York is cold, but I like where I'm living," Leonard Cohen sang on "Famous Blue Raincoat," "There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening." That sentiment is similar to what is laid down on North of No South
, one of two MC3 2020 releases. The other is Noisy City
(Self Produced) from the Matt Clark Three. It is a concept record, according to the promotional material, "a collection of songs loosely based around an imaginary heist in Brighton, 1975." Both are linked thematically and are meant to evoke urban dynamics, imagery, and drama.
It is a brief and breezy record, and around the edgesas one song undergoes a shift in mood, for example, or drifts into another songit feels like an eighteen-minute field recording of a city intersection. The group's principal instruments are guitar, bass, and drums, and they constitute the backbone of their sound, even if a variety of other instruments and ambient sounds drift into and then out of range. The overall effect creates a dynamic sonic quality, as if a laid-back street-level musical trio were performing their own structured and improvised material but also incorporating the ephemeral swell of sounds around thema reverb-laden trumpet ("North Street 74"), a saxophone ("Chase On Kingsway"), simple electronic samplesinto their performance in an intuitive way. The result is a set of songs that feel in alive and in motion, alternating smartly between forceful grooves and dramatic restraint.
"Meeting On Churchill" is the centerpiece and the most eclectic moment. It opens with an almost Klezmer-like bar, followed by some subtle electronic sampling, and then for the remaining runtime the guitar and horn lock into syncopation, trading riffs in a conversational way until the each of the instruments gently taper off. Its followed by "Goodbye Pinkie," which is reminiscent of Dummy
(Go Beat!, 1994)-era Portishead and feels like a spy movie score, short, dark, and evoking a genuine 1990s British dub groove. These two songs together, especially, highlight the group's creativity.
In these ways, the Matt Clark Three does earn the curious labels it claims for itselftrip-hop and nu-jazz, among them, if by the latter we are understood to mean the style, form, and content of jazz music combined with various strains of electronic music. Post-Rock and Math Rock might usefully be applied here too. At its most propulsive and guitar-drivenon "Chase On Kingsway," for examplethey can sound like Don Caballero in their heyday, or a more taciturn Battles. The group gestures in these intriguing ways. Although there is nothing extraneous on North of No South
it is lean musicthere is nothing greatly absorbing or penetrating either. Whether they go deeper into these sounds or wider into other directions is a question worth waiting on.
North Street 74; Chase On Kingsway; Meeting On Churchill; Goodbye Pinkie; North Of The Sea.