[sic] Magazine

Northerner – End Of The Holiday

Northerner is the moniker of Martin Cummings – and, before you ask, yes – he’s from the North of England. End Of The Holiday is his fourth album and, in a way, it picks up from where his excellent debut There’ll Be Other Holidays left off. Less electronic than its predecessor, 2012’s I Am On Your Side, it’s fair to say that this album shares more in common sound-wise with the likes of The Durutti Column or Dif Juz. It’s definitely to be described as late-night ‘mood music’; there’s a distinctly chilled-out vibe throughout and the album’s mainly laid-back guitar instrumentals actually sound delicious through a pair of headphones.

I’m going to begin in the middle – with the track ‘Nomes Jo’ – for the simple reason that it’s impossible not to like what’s going on here; the track combines ambient, layered reverbed guitars over a dreamy backdrop. If you close your eyes, it’s almost certain to transport you to somewhere else. For me, this music conjures up memories of sailing around the beautiful islands near to the coast of Croatia. It’s a superb introduction to Cummings’ sound and it vividly describes the thoughts of having to leave beautiful landscapes and lovely temperatures behind, only to return home and go back to our ‘normal’ lives the following Monday.

‘Per Que T’Estimo’ (Because of Love) is a five-minute love letter to either somebody or, possibly, somewhere. I’m not sure quite how Cummings achieves it, but he almost takes the idea of chilled-out vibes and then proceeds to slow them down even further, as if he’s searching for the root themes of a track – or the very heart of the emotional journey of visiting somewhere truly special. It’s actually as if he subscribes to the notion that a lot of ambient music has too much going on, or indeed isn’t atmospheric enough. There’s certainly an overarching theme of wearing his heart on his sleeve and creating an expressive landscape in terms of the major theme of the album.

Let’s return to the very beginning of the album – and the track ‘Principi’. Cummings successfully strips the track back to its bare bones and carefully applies the ‘Less Is More’ principle, slowly adding guitars that are draped in delay and reverb on top of an almost-there synth, a drum machine very much occupying the lower frequencies. At more than 7 minutes in length, it actually passes in a whisker, which possibly suggests he’s succeeded in delivering on his promise of painting a musical landscape that very much describes the ‘Shirley Valentine’ moment many of us have had at some point in our lives, i.e. what would happen if we don’t get on that plane? What if we just decide to stay and never return home?

And so to ‘Final D’Estiu’ (End Of Summer). Ahh, that moment in mid-September when the rain and wind signal that things are indeed changing in the weather. Restaurants that have been brimming with holidaymakers all season suddenly look a lot less busy as children return to their schools at home, and waiters stand around looking more than a little bored. The beach is now half-full and the barman at the ‘Oasis’ beach bar seeks solace in his mobile phone. Cummings accurately describes all this and more in this track. There’s more than a “knowing” feeling that maybe it’s time to leave before the winds arrive and temperatures suddenly tumble.

This is a lovely collection of tracks that accurately describes the feelings of going on holiday and visiting a beautiful place and also meeting new people. It’s also not afraid to explore the emotional side of leaving it all behind and returning home. ‘Arribant Al Final’ (Coming To The End), for example, vividly reminds me of one holiday where I was on the transfer bus taking me across the airport runway to board the plane – and I struggled to hold back the tears – I simply wasn’t ready to leave. Maybe one day we’ll all be that person who decides to stay.

What quickly becomes apparent here is how Cummings very successfully weaves a beautiful theme right through the entirety of this album. Only when we arrive at the final track ‘A L’Estiu El Nostre Pare Ens Va Deixar’ (In Summer, Our Father Left Us), does it transpire that summers for Cummings actually conjure memories of both sadness and loss. Having said that, ‘End Of The Holiday’ takes us on an emotional ride and delivers in spades. Pun intended.