MP3 Mark Northfield - Ascendant
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9 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Acoustic, CLASSICAL: Contemporary
Mark Northfield is a classically trained pianist, arranger and songwriter. He grew up in Norfolk, England and moved to London in 1999 to pursue his music career. He regularly works as an accompanist for ballet and contemporary dance classes at Arts Ed, London Contemporary Dance School and the Royal Academy Of Dance.
In 2001 he met Andrew Holdsworth, a talented producer based in South London (www.myspace.com/methodandmadness), through one of the dance colleges he works at. Andrew's infectious enthusiasm persuaded Mark to record a full album of his songs following a live demo session at Andrew's flat in November 2001 (complete with occasional aircraft and central heating - Andrew has since relocated to a much quieter location). These eight tracks became the basis of an album called Anachronisms and were fleshed out with strings and things during the first half of 2002. Four further tracks were added that summer to create a full 50 minute tour de force.
Mark then did precisely nothing with it. The fact that it sounded like very little else around (hence the slightly self-deprecating title) meant he was unsure where to go with it. Comparisons with The Divine Comedy, Rufus Wainwright and Tori Amos were about as close as anyone could get, and yet it was the classical complexity and pianistic quality that prompted these comparisons to be made; the songs themselves were of a rather different character, having only occasional flashes of Neil and Rufus' archness and theatricality, and precious little of Tori's obtuseness. They were very much heart on sleeve; sometimes fragile, sometimes angry, but always engaging.
The more important reason for him not wanting to release Anachronisms at the time was that he felt the songs needed a stronger vocalist. To be fair, vocal limitations have not stopped many great (and not so great) songwriters over the years, but it bothered him considerably, despite the good feedback he received about the album. It was this train of thought that led him to plan a new recording featuring a variety of singers, and in so doing paying a discreet tribute to his love of This Mortal Coil (a now defunct 4AD collective) and The Magnetic Fields (in particular, '69 Love Songs' - a modern masterpiece) as well as other talented producer/collaborators such as Hector Zazou and Craig Armstrong.
Ascendant is the result. It took time to come to fruition but was finally recorded in the latter half of 2006 and features nine different vocalists (himself included). As with Anachronisms, it is tricky to categorise, but unlike that album it deliberately creates one mood and keeps it throughout, even as the music slips between elements of classical, rock, folk and jazz. It is also designed to be heard (in a shuffle-free world) from start to finish, with introductions to each track lifting re-arranged themes from elsewhere on the album to create a more or less continuous soundtrack. It is complex and intense, yet also subtle and hauntingly beautiful; a pop/classical crossover of the most intelligent kind, with string arrangements to break your heart and sublime harmonic shifts in abundance.
People who are interested in This Mortal Coil Rufus Wainwright The Divine Comedy should consider this download.
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