Sarah Laughton, Subba-Cultcha, September 2007 [9/10]

The Hand of God – the softer side of folk rock executed with subtlety and dreamy vocals. I’m no religious kid, but this might just rank up there with the kind of religious experience Arcade Fire fans have.

Northern Alliance appeal to the folk/country fanatic I have recently discovered within myself. That’s a pretty scary discovery for anyone to make, but it’s made that little bit less embarrassing when you consider the awesome strength of the ‘Americana’ scene at the moment. For some reason, it’s the Scots who do it best, too. It could be all those mountains and midges, or the fact that Scotland was originally actually part of North America, or excess amounts of whiskey and a lack of anything better to do.

While Northern Alliance err less on the side of Americana (6 Day Riot, Alberta Cross), they do owe a bit of a debt to the genre in opener ‘We Hit the Town Drinking’, and ‘There’s Blood in the Back Seat’. The beautiful harmonies between Doug Johnstone and Viv Strachan are also very much in the style of folk. The subject of the lyrics speaks of honesty and the sadness of living with and without religion. ‘It’s the Hope that Kills us’ could mean a whole range of things, but in a religious context, it’s mighty prescient of the state of the world, and all it’s religious fervour. The new thing about Northern Alliance, though, is their use of drum machines and electronica in conjunction with the aforementioned other genres/styles.

On paper it sounds a bit wrong to mix such disparate sounds, but on record it actually really works. I have reservations about the live sound, though, as apparently, the band has never played live (allegedly owing to laziness). I guess that makes the fact that I’m reviewing this album and raving about it a bit all the more impressive. These days it takes relentless gigging, demos and A&R men for a band to get spotted. Northern Alliance have passed that by and still succeeded in making a gorgeously melancholic mini-album of seven tracks of superbly careful folk/indie/electronica hybrid music.

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