When solo artists change their name and start new projects, it usually signifies a change in direction, tone or intention. It is a change in all three that caused Lauren Edman, already a highly accomplished singer-songwriter, to become Northern Flicker. This is a pivot away from piano rock into dreamy folk and mystical soundscapes and it is something Lauren Edman does with aplomb.
The beauty of ‘Rituals’, the debut album from Northern Flicker, comes from its restrained delicate production and performance. The title track, for example, has the softest acoustic guitar strumming that sounds like brushing golden hair. The drums are fuzzy and the vocals are whispy and filled with warmth. It reminds me a little of cult folk star Linda Perhacs in someways but Northern Flickers is very much her own form. The instrumental guitar and wind piece ‘Village’ showcases this folk edge perfectly.
It isn’t all just folksy stuff either. ‘Reverie’ owes more to lounge jazz as its crawls and coo’s you in. If jazz did faerie revivals – this would be how it would sound. This is because of how Lauren uses her voice to twist around all the gentle music to create something otherworldly. Chamber pop still has an influence too. ‘We rode a bus into the clouds’ moves the otherworldly elements to a piano with a snowy effect on it to create a soothing lullaby. ‘Fugue’ moves into a pure ambience space with a distant guitar blazing out loud over swarming electric pianos. There is a lot of creativity bursting out in the middle section of the album.
The closure of the album returns back to familiar territory. ‘Extinction Burst’ is the token rock track on the album although it is peppered with lush dulcimers and zithers. This means its rock-lite but I really enjoyed its angelic and spacious sound. It pairs hand in hand with ‘Ephemera’ which is a similar sound. Both of these tracks remind me heavily of Sarah McLachlan’s debut album ‘Touch’. The power comes from drum machines and voices and everything else feels thin. This all leads to the beautiful finale ‘This House’ which returns back to the faerie folk of the opening half of the album. It is so delicately put together and has tons of atmospherics and field recordings hidden underneath the guitar and voice. This is clearly a love letter to Planet Earth and Mother Nature and I am so very here for it.
Northern Flicker has crafted a delicate and calming album in ‘Rituals’. There is a lot going on underneath the surface but you can enjoy it on two levels. The first being how lovely it is to listen to, the second is to discover all the hidden sounds and layers underneath. This is the kind of homemade hidden gem that deserves to be found through word of mouth. It is what internet discovery was made for so dig in and enjoy.
Recommended track: Rituals
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