Exit North – Book of Romance and Dust album review

30 05 2019

Exit North are Thomas Feiner, Steve Jansen, Ulf Jansson and Charles Storm. Lead vocalist Feiner first worked with ex-Japan musician Steve Jansen on his 2007 solo album Slope, and Thomas also had a connection with David Sylvian, who released an updated version of The Opiates – Revised by Thomas Feiner & Anywhen on Sylvian’s samadhisound label in 2008. Feiner and Jansen continued working together, adding Jansson and Storm to what became Exit North in 2014.

The band’s debut album Book of Romance and Dust was released on CD in October 2018, but has recently been added to streaming platforms.

If you are a fan of Japan / Rain Tree Crow or Talk Talk, you will find plenty to love on the Exit North album. I also hear touches of another jazz-influenced band that I love, Cousteau.

Comparisons aside, this is a stunning debut. A heady mixture of dark nordic electronica, interspersed with acoustic instruments, Book of Romance and Dust makes great use of space and restraint.

Bested Bones is a beautifully paced opener, underpinned with sumptuous strings, and a slowly building rhythm.

“What could have been, what will become”

Short Of One Dimension is an early highlight. An Americana inspired guitar line is slowly buried between piano and trumpet lines, and a heart-beat bass drum provides the pace. The music suggests huge open-spaces and dry-heat, and has a little of the feel of some of the mood of no-man’s returning jesus album (which also featured Steve Jansen).

Sever Me contains one of Feiner’s best vocal performances on the album. Underpinned by piano and minimalist strings and electronic buzzes and hums, this is a moving and measured arrangement and performance.

“The hurt I can disguise, the bruises hide, far below”

Passenger’s Wake features decaying notes and bar-room piano, before mutating into a heavy chorus, that feels a little off-kilter compared with what went before. There is nothing wrong with an unexpected turn in a song.

The haunting instrumental North ushers in the second part of the album. Lessons In Doubt feels like it was born in the previous century, and reminds me a little of Jacques Brel. Samples, strings and percussion drift in and out of this touching torch-song, delivering a chorus that stays with you long after the final notes end.

Spider features lyrics by Ndalu de Almeida (aka Angolan writer Ondjaki), with music that builds and expands to one of the album’s fullest arrangements as the track progresses.

There is no let up in quality for the closing tracks. Losing features the most unique vocals on the album. Feiner’s drawn-out baritone wrestles with the wordless female vocal line, and the reverb drenched strings and piano refrains tug at your emotions. This song (and indeed the whole album) works best on CD, with the lights off, and the volume high.

Losing is by far the longest track on the album, with half of the song devoted to a slow-paced, minimalist ambient piano and electronics repeated refrain.

Another Chance has the feel of Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees, one of my favourite albums of all time. Decaying strings and deep synths underpin the piano, with Thomas Feiner’s wonderful double-tracked vocals finishing off a powerful closing statement. The album ends on a really optimistic note, and I hope we hear more music soon from Exit North.

Book of Romance and Dust is a beautiful debut album that deserves to be heard by a wider audience.

“Give me one minute more”

Bested Bones
Short Of One Dimension
Sever Me
Passenger’s Wake
Lessons In Doubt
Another Chance

Buy Exit North – Book of Romance and Dust on CD from Amazon




One response

1 06 2019
Marie da Silva

a masterpiece, you did a fine job . . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: