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Mark Harris – An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk

Mark Harris comes from an Audio/Visual background and has already released music on the Hibernate label. An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk marks his debut for n5MD . It is an intriguing title highly suggestive of the beginnings of a journey. I wonder why the /? This is no double A side single but rather a mini concept album of the gentlest, lilting ambience imaginable. Nominally there are five tracks but in truth it’s one theme and one ebbing, seamless record.

The first album that I ever reviewed from the n5MD label was Last Days Sea . On paper, An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk might seem to be following a comparable narrative arc. Our composer appears to set off on a voyage of self-discovery eventually returning home wiser for the experience. Indeed the titular “North” would feature in Last Days follow-up album The Safety Of The North , but I think we can stop drawing parallels here. Mark Harris is a far more minimalistic experience. These are stripped bare pieces reminiscent of early new age, of Eno and Laraaji . Indeed with nature sounds adding background to the plaintive melodies it isn’t difficult to feel transported to one of those new age shops – all aromatherapy, crystals and Whalesong.

Mark Harris certainly has a target market in such retailers, only his would be the outstanding disc on display there. Most of those nature sound records are gimmicky and clumsily done. This is a symphony. When the keys kick in at the centre of the album, you know you’re immersed in something grown-up and professional. Yes it has waves, yes it has birdsong but against all the odds An Idea Of North/Learning To Walk works. Harris has managed to conjure a meditative experience so delicate and fragile I found myself holding my breath for fear of breaking the spell.

Inhale dear listener. Hold. And exhale. Breathing is a very important aspect of meditation.

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