Chris North connects life's road maps

Collector items
By NINA MASHUROVA  |  June 5, 2012

FOLK IMPLOSION "I thought it would be really cool to do a release with remixes of these tunes
because of the interpersonal distance," says Chris North.

The best folk albums are road albums. They're written on the road or for the road, they drop in names of states and interstates, they channel land and transience and distance.

Whitehaus singer-songwriter Chris North has been inspired by travel for some time now — January's Lovedream LP began with the epic "500 Miles" and went on to include a meandering psych-folk instrumental called "The Road to Yesterday" and a cover of the Scottish folk song "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." But Near and Far All We Are, which North recorded last fall upon returning to Boston after a 21-day-long cross-country road trip, is miles away from anything he has released in the past.

"I played a show in Boise, Idaho, and the day of the show I had some time to kill, so I decided to go for a hike by myself, and I had some great realizations," says North over coffee in the original J.P. Licks, where he once worked. "That's what the song 'I Gave Life to Love' is about — some of the realizations I had on the hike, things growing and dying."

Even though Hurricane Irene never fulfilled its promise of serious weather last summer, restless winds were blowing through Jamaica Plain. After five years in Boston, founding Whitehaus member, poet, and Cantab champion Brian S. Ellis decided to pack up and move to Portland, Oregon. North moved into the Whitehaus in his stead, and the next day hopped into a 2002 Honda Element with Ellis and fellow Whitehaus companion Sam Franklin and headed west. The mission was twofold — to help a friend move on to new beginnings, then to drive back alone and be moved by new ideas. "It was an intentionally isolating experience," North says. "I wanted to write some tunes."

The new record, due out June 8, is more conceptual than the fairly straightforward folk albums North has been releasing both with former band the Points North and his current Chris North Dream Quartet. Side A features "I Gave Life to Love," continues with a psychedelic tropicalia dance remix of the track by Whitehaus alum Many Mansions, and closes with a recording of the Atlantic Ocean from Ipswich's Crane Beach. Side B is devoted to "The Nature of Love," its remix by Animal Hospital, another song titled "US 1" and a recording of the Pacific from Washington's Crescent Beach.

It's a minimal project, given to a bicoastal sense of symmetry and heavy instrumentation concerned with space. The tracks are currently up on Bandcamp, to be followed soon by a second page exclusively for remixes by artists including Dinners, Jason Rozen of Seer Group, and Hunnie Bunnies. "For me, as somebody who had written some tunes not necessarily about distance but written over a long distance with kind of a misty traveler's mentality, I thought it would be really cool to do a release with remixes of these tunes because of the interpersonal distance," says North.

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