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North Of Niagara
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North of Niagara marks the long-awaited-reunion of the popular Canadian duo DANNA & CLEMENT. Even the artists themselves, who admit they sometimes haven't been satisfied with past accomplishments, feel their new Hearts of Space release is the best music they've ever done. During the 1980s, the Canadian duo DANNA and CLEMENT released a popular series of environmental electronic albums inspired by the strange, melancholy beauty of the Northern landscapes. The natural wonders of the musicians' homeland mirrored internal landscapes as well, capturing sublime expressions of rarefied emotion. When the two went their separate ways after the release of Another Sun in 1986, both MYCHAEL DANNA and TIM CLEMENT continued to evolve as solo artists through individual releases, film projects, and planetarium scores.
Critics receiving pre-release copies seem to agree. Pulse! magazine's Contemporary Instrumental column for March 1995, gives the disc its top, five-star rating, citing the musician's complete mastery of the style that Danna has dubbed "romantic minimalism."
"I say we're minimalists in the sense that we tend to use small cells of melodic material and repetition," he explains. "But the whole idea of romanticism is about bringing out a deep feeling that other minimalist composers too often neglect. To me, music is first of all an emotional art. If it doesn't work on that level, it may be interesting, but if it doesn't touch you, what reasons do you have to keep coming back to it?"
North of Niagara is a suite of 12 pieces exploring feelings stimulated by the vast, inspirational vistas found along the Bruce Trail, Canada's oldest and longest footpath. The trail begins at Niagara Falls and follows the Niagara Escarpment -- the edge of an ancient, shallow sea -- for about 800 kilometers through Ontario. Natural sounds recorded along the trail enhance the artists' own musical impressions of this scenic wonderland.
"We use these environmental sounds as a paint box to add more colour to the internal sensations we're trying to convey," says Clement. "This is typical of our work together -- as opposed to exotic inspiration, it's all been pretty much Canadian with us. But even with these sounds, the overall effect of the music is more dreamy, more subconscious than ever."
From the subdued nostalgia of "Remember Summer" to the quiet reverence of "Mount Nemo," the sonorous reflections of "Silent Lake," and the profound yearning of the final selection "Lookout Point," North of Niagara is imbued with a feeling of intensity at a whisper. It's as if the power of the landscape is veiled in a delicate mist, and the emotions aroused by the vistas run so deep they almost escape conscious recognition. In the face of such beauty, the visitor doesn't dare break the spell. Even silent expressions of awe only begin to touch the places where this music travels.