A richly varied release, the Australian-turned-British duo of Northcore has assembled a distinct collection of tracks that drift from one unique style to another. Released on California’s Spotted Peccary in 2012, the pieces here predominantly feature synth-based melodies and acoustic treatments, some in the vein of Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre, while others take on more worldly influences, with strong folk and occasional Middle Eastern motifs.
The album’s title, Desatero, is Czech for Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments. Indeed, we coincidentally have ten tracks included on the album, but these declarations are of a significantly different origin than the biblical.
Carl Gibbons and Jana Tillotson have crafted an album of delicate songs of love, remorse, and isolation. “I’ll be your oxygen / time and again,” sings Tillotson on “Oxygen,” straddling the fragile line of desirability and commitment in a single, quick turn of phrase. Elsewhere, the vocals give way to instrumental passages that possess a sparse style, yet are not without the odd flourish to reach out of the mix and grab hold of you.
There are, however, a few inconsistencies present that do take away from making this a more satisfying release overall. Production can vary from track to track—especially in how the vocals are treated, and in how high the synths are placed in the mix. Some tracks just don’t seem to fit in to the overall flow of things, such as the trance arrangement on “Green Fridge,” or the more plodding nature of “Metronome.”
There is much beauty to behold here though, and the stellar moments do outweigh the inconsistent ones. The album’s closing piece is an inspired and unexpected take on a traditional Swedish folk song called “Min Ros.” Maja Eriksson provides guest vocals here, and the results are simply breathtaking. The sounds of a delicate violin accentuate her voice, while field recordings and ambient chords sparsely provide the backing to this moving track. A perfect end to an album as musically diverse as it is enchanting.
01) Looking Glass
07) Green Fridge
10) Min Ros