The man known as Nort has been a fixture on the Sheffield musical scene for donkey’s years. However, one thing he is not is a has-been.
Since first coming to the attention of the public as a member of early 80s experimental funk act Hula he has always insisted on going his own way and doing his own thing – a path unlikely to lead to multimillion-selling success but instead gaining him a respectable fanbase and more unusually the respect of everyone on the scene. You may hear local musicians bitching about each other but Nort is seemingly immune to being a victim of this sort of dog-eat-dog stuff.
His loose collective Yonni have just released a rather fine album entitled The Electric Tribe. It doesn’t exactly feature a cast of thousands, but as well as Nort’s own multitasking on a host of instruments, there are a further 16 people credited with musical or vocal input – a sign of how willing others are to work with him. It was mostly recorded at Nort’s own Epic Head Studios, which is also extensively used by other acts.
As you might expect with a diverse line-up, the album is all over the place at times – and that isn’t meant in a derogatory way. Instead, it leaves you with a sense of wondering what’s coming next. Semi-operatic singing, a bit of brass – partly provided by former Longpig Simon Stafford – and even whistling pop up during the album.
It all hangs together though and can be taken as a whole or as a selection of tasty morsels.
A lot of it could be used as soundtrack music, and indeed the track Bicycle Day is based on work Nort did for South Yorkshire couple Damian and Nicola Morter’s low-budget – but rather entertaining – horror thriller Bicycle Day.
He and Yonni also contributed spooky sounds to the pair’s Safehouse Productions zombie-based follow-up The Eschatrilogy.
But in case that leaves you with a sense of doom and gloom, there is a lifeforce to this album, possibly caused by Nort’s own brush with serious illness in the past few years.
Without being too explicit, credits on the album sleeve for the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Macmillan Cancer Care and Sheffield’s Cavendish Centre show you where he’s been and lyrics such as ‘you’re not killing me, you’re just killing time’ show that he has come through the worst and is staying optimistic. It’s impressive stuff.
The Electric Tribe is available on i-Tunes at this very moment. You can also get it on CD from the LP record store on Arundel Street.
A single will also be released in May.