(New Album Review) The Gateless Gate- Near North

From Allister Thompson in Ontario, Canada comes this fine submission, Near North, the new album from his project The Gateless GateThe album was performed completely by Thompson and his wife, Teri-Lynn Janveau. 

The Gateless Gate occasionally journeys into the realm of ambient, but I would perhaps describe Thompson’s project best as pastoral art music that is influenced by ambient, Classical art music, and folk. Thompson has noted Florian Fricke’s Popol Vuh as a major influence, and I would say that their sensibilities are very close. Like Fricke, Thompson seems to move seamlessly between the idioms of psychedelic folk and ambient meditation music. Moreover, as with Popol Vuh, there is a Romantic spirit of nostalgia and reverence for nature underlying The Gateless Gate.

Near North is something of a loose concept album about the wildernesses of Northern Ontario. I was particularly impressed with the subtle mystery and drama of “Misery Bay”– Thompson and Janveau evoke environments seemingly frozen in time, as well as hinting at the emotional history behind these places. For the most part, the album is fundamentally divided between piano pieces played by Janveau and guitar pieces by Thompson. Janveau’s contributions on piano illustrate the sense of lostness and silence of some places, Thompson’s on guitar convey the sense of wonder and quiet majesty to others. In this way, Near North gives a very complete and compelling narrative of its setting. There are so many memorable details on this album: the field recording of a raven’s call on “Ken’s Eagle”, the angelic vocal harmonizing on “Ottawa River”, the mellotron on “Aurora”.

This is very much a musician’s ambient album (and yes, there is such a thing…). Thompson is, after all, not just a musician but also a music buff whose eclectic knowledge is part of what makes his blog Make Your Own Taste such a pleasure for me to drop in on. Check this out when you can. Here is Allister’s bandcamp for The Gateless Gate.

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