Tegan Northwood
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Tegan Northwood


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"CD Reviews - Self Raising Flower"

Riding effortlessly over a sea of jangling Rickenbacker-sounding guitars, Tegan Northwood’s voice sounds a little like a cross between Enya and Robyne Dunne, without the syrup of the former but certainly some of the lyricism of the other, on the opening cut, Peteless Beach. But unlike Robyne and more like Enya, Tegan is more interested in building intriguing layers that don’t really stray very melodically over rhythms that gradually do. Springchild is a good example of this, where a sort of simple tribal/child phrase/chant slowly emerges and then deconstructs against an evolving percussion pattern before subtly disintegrating. Really interesting stuff.

Tegan has written, arranged, programmed, produced and mixed the lot, too, so apart from the odd guitar flourish here and there, and the mantra-like churning chorus rhythm guitar of Tim Lowry, so integral in the sound of Peteless Beach and Purple, Green and Grey, Self-Raising Flower is very much the aural vision of this singular artist. It’s interesting that one track, Fire In a Far Place, should have also featured on a compilation CD for a label called Extreme, because Tegan’s music is in now (sic) way extreme. It’s exploratory in the most caressing of ways, the music swirling languid and warm beneath the limpid melodies. It’s about atmosphere and evocation, even when the programming gives way to the contrapuntal a cappella harmonies of Dance Ahead and So, perhaps the closest Tegan gets to anything celtic or Enya-like, just gorgeous.

Fire In a Far Place itself, and Mermaids, are closer to the kind of otherworldly soundscape you might find on a program like ABC FM’s The Listening Post, or the more experimental work of SPK’s Graeme Revell on, say, The Insect Musicians. Perhaps even Phillip Glass country. Then again, the ‘secret track’ points very firmly to Joy Division, so take your pick. Either way, they make fascinating centre and ‘end’ pieces respectively to the record and certainly make me curious about that Extreme compilation, Untitled (ten). The contrast with Fields of Stone, the track following Fire In A Far Place, then, while effortless/seamless, is nevertheless subtly striking. Tegan Northwood notes that Self-Raising Flower was essentially four years in the making. They must have been four quietly remarkable years to have spawned such an exquisitely fragile collection of pieces. May the next chapter not be so long in coming. Truly wondrous. Interested parties should contact Tegan direct…
- Drum Media (Michael Smith)


Aer Purus (independent, cassette) (1994)
Self Raising Flower (independent, CD) (2000)



Tegan Northwood is a singer-songwriter who creates songs and sound pieces that span several genres, from alternative pop to ambient electronica to experimental. She has recorded and released two albums between 1994 and 2000 and is in pre-production for her third album now.

A standout feature of Tegan’s music lies in the ethereal character of her voice and her distinctive sense of harmony and vocal arrangements. Her voice has been likened to Liz Frazer (Cocteau Twins), Harriet Wheeler (The Sundays), Bjork, and Sydney’s Robyne Dunne. Coupled with this is a production style which makes use of the layering and mixing of multiple sound sources, vocals, electronic instruments, guitars and effects. Tegan has often used her voice in an exploratory way as well as the main melodic focus, but over the years her vocal style has become more direct and to the fore of the music.

- Aer Purus, released in 1994, was co-written in part with Tim James (Feverdream) while living in Melbourne, and also included solo guitar and electronic compositions of Tegan’s. Characterised by soaring guitar and vocal sounds, it was recorded and mixed at Birdland Studios.

- After relocating to Sydney in 1996, Tegan formed the ambient vocal group Lumania, performing around Sydney during ’96-97. Singers Lauren Freedman (later with Magic Lunchbox), Jacqueline Freeman (Orchid, singer-songwriter) and Tara Millet (later with Morgana and the Monstars) performed Tegan’s free-form, phonetic vocal compositions through effects.

- In 1997 Tegan met and worked with studio owner and engineer Shane Fahey, doing programming for clients of Meghaphon Studios. She’s since contributed vocals, guitar and programming to albums by various artists, including Jodi Phillis (ex-Clouds), Robyne Dunne, Single Gun Theory, Diana Ah Naid, Stevie Wishart, Social Interiors, Matt Tonks and UK producer Pete Helmsley.

- Whilst working on Social Interiors’ contribution to their label’s 10th anniversary compilation, Extreme’s Untitled (ten), Tegan was influenced by sound pieces that were based largely on field recordings of natural and found sound.

- Her next album, Self Raising Flower, was released independently in 2000. Apart from a few tracks recorded and mixed at Megaphon Studios by Shane Fahey, she produced, recorded and mixed it herself. This album was a collection of Tegan’s vocal pieces, sound pieces, plus guitar and electronic-based pop songs, eclectic yet cohesive.

“Really interesting stuff...exploratory in the most caressing of ways, the music swirling languid and warm beneath the limpid melodies. It’s about atmosphere and evocation, even when the programming gives way to the contrapuntal a cappella harmonies of Dance Ahead and So, perhaps the closest Tegan gets to anything Celtic or Enya-like, just gorgeous…” (Michael Smith, Drum Media)

Over the last few years Tegan has further explored compositions made from natural sound recordings, and how sound can provide and carry healing. Her new album will be released through Endgame Records in early 2007.