Carolyn Hillyer & Nigel Shaw

The concept of north has always meant so much more than the geographical compass point or a turn within the flow of seasons and we wanted to explore north as a state of being; to ask why it causes our hearts to quiver. This collection wanders from raw lullaby to passionate invocation to strange mythology … and includes our whisky song!

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What is the north we can give you?

We began to sense the arrival of this album a few years before its first song reached our door. After many travels in Arctic terrains, north has become scratched onto our bones and wrapped inside our music; over and again we have found ourselves dreaming, composing and writing about timeless ice, reindeer souls and the resonances of taiga and tundra. But the concept of north has always meant so much more than the geographical compass point or a turn within the flow of seasons and we wanted to explore north as a state of being; to ask why it causes our hearts to quiver.

Wisdom and loss, mountains and remembrance, dusk and demise, resolution and return, wide open landscapes and wide open possibilities grounded, burnished and honed by life experiences. Steps that move steadily closer to older age and the urgent responsibility to become worthy ancestors. The edges of fear and dread in the exact moment before they dissolve into trust and understanding. What it means for one human to have shared with another the span of a life and a home place from which to connect with the world. The gentlest of gifts that we may offer to each other as we move from the familiar towards the unknown.

This album is perhaps a departure from our customary way of creating new songs together. It has been a careful blending of two solitary explorations, watching for those mirrored spaces where we walk on common ground. Musically we have dipped into a broad array of instruments in order to catch a flavour of north: flutes, drums and piano of course, plus strings (Jura guitar, cello, dulcimer), ritual whistles and beautiful percussive tools. We have shaped music, lyrics and soundscapes that reflect rebellion, grief, hope, confusion, comfort, stillness, restlessness, wonderment and love. We have written these songs with our hearts pointing northwards. Nine prayers offered in a time of turbulence. Nine prayers north.

Beyond my feet the river drums invisibly across the black land
the rhythm flows, I dip my hem, my coat washed by the water’s journey
a distant owl flies as she sews a thread of song into the silence
I catch her calls onto my sleeve and then my coat is laced with music
I walk alone beneath the sky, the coat of night is gently falling
around my dreams, around my soul, this quiet darkness is my protection… (The Coat of Night)

SONGS

1 Gifts For Your Journey
2 Arctic Lost Lullaby
3 She Eats The Stars
4 Spirit Bird Hunters
5 A Promise Of Wolves
6 That Mystical Gold
7 The Whole Meaning Of North
8 These Scars We Thought Would Never Fade
9 The Coat Of Night

NIGEL SHAW: wooden flutes (oak, yew, walnut), eagle bone flute, metal whistles,
death whistle, fujara, koncovka, piano, Jura guitar, bowed dulcimer, bass / string / accordian
& cello arrangements, djembe, frame drum (wild horse), wind chimes,
rattles, shakers, electronic percussion, atmospherics.

CAROLYN HILLYER: lead vocals, vocal harmonies, chanting, proto-celtic language (song 5), koncovka,
cello, metal bowl drum, frame drums (red deer, wild horse, reindeer), rattles, bones.

Guest violin: Jonny Hibbs. Photographs: Mark Abdey

Album length: 60 minutes. Released in 2019.