To Work And Not Feed is not the debut release from To The North, but it's the most substantial in a while (they released a split 7" with the similarly minded Ohana last year, and an EP called Landscapes before that). The record features four songs spread over two sides of vinyl (with a download code included), and was recorded almost 18months ago by a friend of the band (Dave Williams) and mixed by the ever present Bryce Moorhead. The record captures the band with a raw honesty; there are very few overdubs, the sounds are left without a huge deal of polish, and as such the band's musicality is left as the sole focus. It's a sound that is unadorned and uncluttered. This is probably the best presentation for the band as their songs are complex and non-linear, and would probably become impenetrable with a more dense mix. If a song like 'If Knowledge Were A Right Of Passage You Would Be A Fucking Genius' was filled with more instrumentation it would likely collapse under its own weight, as it's already stuffed with more riffs and chord progressions than a lot of bands put together throughout an entire album. As an aside, it's probably also the best track on the record.
The star instrument here is certainly Errol Hoffman's guitar. It winds its way around all of the other instruments, alternating between extremely intricate melodic runs and dynamic chordal work. Almost stealing the show at times is the muscular yet dexterous drum work from Simon, while Josh's bass provides a solid foundation for the music (also displaying its own inventiveness from time to time). The instrumental base is likely strong enough to invoke interest even in those who are not particular partial to this style of indie rock, but the vocals might be a turnoff to any who are averse to the genre's somewhat ubiquitous speak-singing. Singer Cam Gillard's style is fairly common amongst post-hardcore bands, and those who don't particularly like other vocalists of his ilk probably won't be won over by his efforts. That said, he's a particularly passionate, anthemic vocalist who provides a needed centrepoint in the middle of his bandmates' controlled chaos. Lyrically he seems to mostly deal with conflicts and relationships (though not necessarily of the romantic variety), and does so with an inclusive, non-accusatory tone - there are a lot more 'we's on this record than 'you's.
For a band who have for a long time been fairly irregular in their gigging and releases, it's encouraging to see To The North playing out more consistently. In recent times they've become a more constant presence in gig guides, and have been on multiple tours with another one about to begin in support of this release. With any luck they'll become more than the highly respected but inconsistently seen heads of a local scene. With a bit more luck we'll get another record from them soon.