Album Review: Prospect of Skelmersdale by The Magnetic North
Very Good, Based on 3 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
To inaugurate Britain's second wave of post-war development in 1961, the small mining town of Skelmersdale -- "Skem" to locals -- was designated a New Town. Redeveloped to accommodate spillover residents from nearby Liverpool, the remade Skem slowly deteriorated over the next two decades when all of a sudden it received a totally unexpected new designation. By 1984, when a young Simon Tong's family relocated there, Skem had become the official center of the U.K.'s Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, giving the place an entirely different flavor.
Four years after the release of their epic debut, Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North , the Simon Tong-fronted trio have returned with a second album, Prospect of Skelmersdale, which is as focused on creating sonic landscapes as their first. No, the titular Skelmersdale isn’t a fictional location from Hagar the Horrible, it’s a town in the trio’s native England, which, in the 1980s, was both the official English site of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and Tong’s childhood home. Why is that relevant? Because this album has been crafted as a grab bag of vignettes from Skelmersdale’s history, landscapes and colour.
London-based trio The Magnetic North here deliver their second album inspired by the players’ old haunts. The busy musicians’ credits include Simon Tong’s stint in The Verve and work with Damon Albarn in Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen, as well as singer Hannah Peel’s contributions to records by John Foxx and OMD. They both played with third member Erland Cooper in his Erland & The Carnival ensemble and co-opt parts of that group’s folk-rock template onto their psychogeographical tour of the UK, which started with 2012’s Orkney and now alights on Lancashire.