A new one from electronic folklorists Kemper Norton! On 'Toll', they follow up their rural, campfire-lit back catalogue with an album steeped in Cornish history and myth. As always, the band's dark ambient collage is informed by thorough context -- theirs is a hauntology that feels real, rooted in story. Expect a record that sounds the way beaches look at night.
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When Clint handed me this CD to review, I immediately sensed he was affording me the chance to learn about my ancestral roots -- although I’ve only been to Cornwall twice. It rained both times... So, ‘Toll’ by Kemper Norton then. Opening track ‘Yadnik’ is the aural equivalent of mizzle, that dense moistness in the air that often plagues mid-summers in the area. Heavy drone and skittering melody are soundtracking my memory of enjoying a pasty in the car, surveying an overcast Padstow harbour.
The record tracks the intersection of a lost Cornish kingdom and the sinking in 1967 of the Torrey Canyon tanker. The wreckage let loose millions of gallons of crude oil and the effects are still apparent on many beaches. Lyonesse, long since submerged, has featured in many stories and notable poems by Tennyson. There is correspondingly more than an air of hauntological atmosphere about this album. ‘The Town’ recounts poetic tales about this lost geography in an Eno-ish voice; ringing of bells erupting from lost churches as the Atlantic Ocean stirs and breaks over the Seven Stones reef, giving up its ghosts in bursts... only to vanish again in the burst of a bubble.
‘Sirens’ continues the theme of mythology converging on history and the resultant destruction and flooding of communities. The disembodied wails of sirens return later on ‘Danaoin’. On ‘Coming Home’, tales of lost land, homes and families are resolved through delicately weaved ambience. Textural drone and dark ambient collage meet contextual storytelling that resonates through every note of this emotively charged, beautiful and illuminating record.
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- Toll by Kemper Norton
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