A Northern Chorus
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A Northern Chorus

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The best kept secret in music


"A Northern Chorus "Bitter Hands Resign""

A Northern Chorus's third CD has a wind-swept quality about it -- atmospheric, layered, chilly, enveloping. In short, it's an acquired taste.

But if you're in the mood for rock meditations, "Bitter Hands Resign" may well be your cup of Zen. The Ontario-based ensemble specializes in mood pieces that are meticulously arranged and dotted with subtle variations in tone and color, all contributing to a peculiar ebb and flow. The instrumentation alone is distinctive enough to catch your ear: guitars, cello, piano, organ, bass and percussion. But what consistently stands out, albeit often in the subtlest of ways, are the sonic weaves that tie one tune to the next, almost seamlessly at times.

If the sextet has any commercial ambitions, it's not letting on. Each of the album's eight songs is long enough to discourage airplay. The lyrics, which range from the poetic to the ponderous, aren't exactly radio-friendly, either. Just scan the opening lines to "Costa Del Sol," a ballad that inspired the album's title: "Please direct your eyes to the trembling skies, to the trembling skies / And catch every glimpse in all your words, in all your conjured chords / As sure as bitter hands resign, the past will be seen in new light, cast upon old words that you thought you'd lost in the fire." Get the picture?

Not every lyric appears torn from the band's own book of revelations, though. "Winterize," which concerns the death of pop tunesmith Elliott Smith, brings the CD to a haunting close.

- Mike Joyce - Washington Post

"A Northern Chorus "Bitter Hands Resign""

When chaos strikes, people often seek some semblance of structure—church, a clean house, etc. Ontario’s A Northern Chorus looks for order in music. Meticulously ethereal, the band’s third album contrasts with the existential tumult that lies within (“I want to know who’s in charge of this show? Whose plans are these?”). Cushioned by organ, piano and cello, the songs drink deep, as Heinlein would say. Perhaps best of all, ANC is partially funded by the Canadian government, making us long even more for their foreign, carefully crafted world. - HARP Magazine

"A Northern Chorus "Bitter Hands Resign""

New City Chicago

Canada's A Northern Chorus has done admirable things with "Bitter Hands Resign" (Sonic Unyon). The band transformed its inspirations into something completely fresh and new--think "The Bends"-era Radiohead meets everything ever released on Barsuk meets the old catalogue from Up Records. The vocal harmonies make the record enjoyable outright--they're almost constant, never overbearing, never boring, and the guitar echoes in the background only remind us of the presence of other instruments. A Northern Chorus uses its share of cellos, pianos and organs, but at its core, the band's space-like guitar and secret-whisper percussion banks against its bass foundation and lets the vocals take the wheel. In a way, it's exactly what you'd ask of a band like this--A Northern Chorus never over-stretches, and it always ends the songs where it promises, right where they should end, moments after the big buildups and vocal crescendos. Is it depressing? What the hell do you think?

- Tom Lynch - New City Chicago

"A Northern Chorus "Bitter Hands Resign""

Exclaim! Magazine

With its delicate instrumentation and ample musicians, the songs found on the attention-grabbing Spirit Flags were strong, but there was the feeling they were still finding their way. That should all delightfully change with Bitter, as the songs showcase an energised and confident band at the top of their heart-melting best. The glorious noise of “Subject & Matter” sets the stage, as it rollicks back and forth between sweet floating vocals, cello, strong, fuzzy bursts of ringing guitar and crashing cymbals. This back and forth is prominent but it never tires. Particularly uplifting and strong is “Costa Del Sol,” with its breathy harmonies and perfect haze of guitars never overpowering the delicate strings. Bitter won’t just put A Northern Chorus on the map, it’ll help take them over the world one dream at a time.

-Chris Whibbs - Exclaim Magazine

"A Northern Chorus Bitter Hands Resign"

The Coast

Known as a hotbed for quality underground acts, Hamilton is arguably the home of some of the finest musicians in the country. A Northern Chorus, staples in the steel city scene, are renowned as one of the most underrated Canadian bands, but their new album should bring some attention to the veteran rockers. Recorded, produced and mixed by pianist/organist Graham Walsh, Bitter Hands Resign, the band’s third wistful, dreamy masterpiece is exactly what it needs to shine a light upon its musical mastery. ANC has finally emerged from its shell, taking a more passionate intellectual stance than on previous recordings. Vocalists Stu Livingstone, Pete Hall and Alex McMaster weave their respective ways through the band’s epics, providing everything from ample three-part harmonies to thoughtful solo muses, allowing for a more complete aural experience. Musically, A Northern Chorus’s careful, slowcore design tears a page from the book of In-Flight Safety, at times resembling Minnesotan Sub Pop rockers Low, with a touch of Coldplay and electronica-less modern Radiohead for good measure. The album kicks off with the melancholic ballad “The Shepherd and The Chauffeur,” and carefully sifts through eight colourful, weighty tracks, highlighted by the atmospheric “Costa Del Sol.” Concluding with the melodic “Winterize,” the song’s finale epitomizes the album: It begins with a lull and builds to a climax before veering off into a bridge and fading into oblivion. Despite the sparse number of tracks, Bitter Hands Resign clocks in around the 50-minute mark and is a complete musical experience, leaving little to be desired upon its completion.

- Jon Bruhm - The Coast


Before We All Go To Pieces-2001 Black Mountain Music
Spirit Flags-2003 Sonic Unyon Records
Bitter Hands Resign-2005 Sonic Unyon Records

Streamed at www.sonicunyon.com/anc


Feeling a bit camera shy



Bitter Hands Resign, set for release on 19 April 2005 in Canada and 3 May 2005 in the USA, is the third full-length release from Ontario dream pop quintet A Northern Chorus.

In 2001, the band emerged from obscurity with their debut release, Before We All Go To Pieces, on micro-indie Black Mountain Music. After a quick two-week Western tour and positive media praise from the west coast, the band aligned with Sonic Unyon for future releases.

May 2003 saw the release of their Sonic Unyon debut spirit flags. The album helped pave major inroads for the band in North America, with strong media reaction, many positive reviews and exceptional support from college radio. In August, the album peaked on the CMJ Core album charts at number 21, making it the highest charting Sonic Unyon release stateside in seven years.

The group toured extensively in support of spirit flags, including two Canadian tours as well as US and UK jaunts. Foreign soil seemed delighted to welcome the band. Leeds Music Scene proudly stated the band was an instant hit live “complete with soaring delayed guitars, warm vocals and some head swayingly beautiful dynamics and chord changes,” adding that “while the band may have influences that are fairly easy to locate, they inhabit a world all of their own… they seem to have created a new musical blueprint.”

In 2004, the band contributed a version of Low’s ‘Slide’ to the We Could Live In Hope tribute album, released by Fractured Discs. Their rendition received a number of rave reviews in the press. Splendidezine says “A Northern Chorus’ ‘Slide’ is the disc’s most heart-snappingly gorgeous cut… it nails everything we love about Low, and comes as close to out-Lowing them as anything else here.”

The band also headed back into the studio in 2004, recording at The Barn in rural Caistor Centre, Ontario with Graham Walsh sharing production duties. Between February and August the band tracked and recorded the eight songs that have become Bitter Hands Resign. It is the first recording to feature cellist/vocalist Alex McMaster, who joined the band shortly before their UK tour, and the last to feature outgoing drummer Marshall Bureau, who decided to leave shortly after the album was completed.

Since the release of Bitter Hands Resign the band has toured North America extensively and received rave reviews along the way. Pitchfork Media says “A Northern Chorus has turned out the record that Death Cab for Cutie might make after taking an on online classical composition course and a near-fatal overdose of tranquilizer cocktails.” The Coast (Halifax) says “ANC has finally emerged from its shell, taking a more passionate intellectual stance than on previous recordings.” Exclaim! Magazine predicts “Bitter Hands Resign won’t just put A Northern Chorus on the map; it’ll help them take over the world one dream at a time.”
Currently the band is working on their fourth full length album due out in spring 2007.