Toronto-based post-rock / ambient duo Jim Field and Dorian Williamson have spent the last six years releasing a steady output of music as Northumbria, and this latest album on Cryo Chamber ‘Vinland’ (their fifth in total) represents the closing chapter of a conceptual trilogy based around the Norse discovery of Canada. While the widescreen, often chilly yet serene expanses being traversed by Northumbria here certainly fit perfectly with this accompanying theme, in truth you don’t need to be familiar with the historical subject matter to fully enjoy this album.
It’s something of an epic journey as well, with the ten tracks collected here clocking in at just over 78 minutes in length. ‘Where The Water Meets The Sky’ opens this album in lush yet minimalist territory, with slow treated drones evoking the swell of orchestral instrumentation as they rise and fall against a backdrop of eerily shimmering drones, the intersecting harmonics ringing out as they bleed into the foreground. If anything it’s an exercise in total immersion that slows the listener’s metabolism, preparing them for what’s to follow.
If the aforementioned track sees vaguely recognisable post-rock guitar elements circling near its conclusion, they emerge in full on ‘Frozen Lake’ as delicately chiming chords waver through glacial layers of reverb against moody live bass, the sense of time slowing to a crawl remaining intact as a more tangibly human presence rears its head amidst the icy landscapes. Elsewhere, ‘The Windjigo’ wanders out into unsettling dark ambience as an abyss of background drones yawns ominously beneath what sound like treated horn tones, the sounds of a burning campfire crackling at the very edges of the mix.
It’s the twelve minute long title track though that’s most indicative of the expansive journeys being traversed by Northumbria here as slowed down violins trail like auroras against brooding bass tones and a vast, enveloping wash of background drones that’s as lulling as it is unsettling. All up, ‘Vinland’ provides a suitably epic conclusion to Northumbria’s Norse explorations of the Canadian wilderness.