Northern Minimalism 3, the latest album from Mat Handley performing as Pulselovers, is a deeply personal “love letter to South Yorkshire, or at least to Doncaster and Sheffield”, not just the urban environment but the region’s post-punk and electronic-pop legacies.
Inspired by the concept of spreading a project over multiple formats taken from Virgin Prunes’ ‘A New Form of Beauty’, this is the first full album in Pulselovers’ on-going ‘Northern Minimalism’ series following a 7” and 10” release on other labels over the past few years.
Taking a different approach than the rurally-inspired ‘Cotswold Stone’ album, ‘Northern Minimalism 3’ delivers a sprawling, genre-hopping release that is less focused on melody but explores suburban drones and industrial rhythms.
“The term “Northern Minimalism” was coined by Simon Berkovitz of Sensory Leakage, who released my “Live at Doncaster College” tape in 2020,” adds Handley.
“I loved the description and wanted to use it to pay tribute to the early electronic and post-punk sounds I was listening to in the first two or three years of the 1980s, particularly The Human League (mk1), Cabaret Voltaire, John McGeoch (Magazine) and Eric Random.”
The seemingly endless musical possibilities of that era seep into every corner of ‘Northern Minimalism 3’ whether on post-punk dub stomper ‘Shock Cubes’ (titled after a misheard shopping list found and posted on Facebook by Gavin Morrow of Grey Frequency), or ‘Orphans’, a surging piece made up of discarded drones from VRTX, a psych/motorik band Handley is also a member of.
To create the rich sounds on the new album Handley is joined by a supporting cast of musicians including John Alexander (Floodlights), Graham Sutherland (Luzon Valley Fearless), Colin Bradley (Dual) and Harriet Lisa (Floodlights) whose mournful violin on ‘Kitchen’ helps provide an album highlight.
‘Northern Minimalism 3’ is also rich with stories directly from Handley’s lived experience in the locations that the album soundtracks. “I wasn’t born in South Yorkshire, but I’m a product of the environment I’ve lived in since being a teenager,” says Handley about the memories and locations that form the inspiration for this new album.
‘Night Drive’, for example, with its kinetic rhythms and sense of travelling dark city streets, was written as a memory of a specific car journey. “This particular trip was a drive through Sheffield city centre late at night in around 1981 with two school friends. The trip was pretty uneventful, I think we’d been to a gig, but we were 17 years old, we had wheels and we were in the big city (we didn’t get out of Doncaster much in those days). Life was great and we felt unstoppable. I wish I still had the friends I had when I was 17,” explains Handley.
‘Gunrubber’ is named after, and pays homage to an early Sheffield-based fanzine, while “The Pansentient Hegemony” is a superfan’s nod to The Human League’s early history. Throughout ‘Northern Minimalism 3’ the people, places and events of these northern cities are front and centre.
“I think the music I make is steeped in memory, melancholy and/or location. I try to make each album sound different to the last, though melody, drone and uncomplicated rhythms are touch points I can’t seem to let go of,” says Handley.
- 1 Shock Cubes 4:56 Buy
- 2 Night Drive 4:41 Buy
- 3 Kitchen 5:28 Buy
- 4 Gunrubber 6:47 Buy
- 5 Orphans 7:18 Buy
- 6 Seeing Double 4:09 Buy
- 7 The Pansistent Hegemony 5:19 Buy
- 8 Silver Bridge 5:23 Buy
- 9 Suburban Shrinkage 4:40 Buy
- Zero 7
- Home (Alt Mix) / Somersault (Danger Mouse Rmx Ft. MF DOOM)
- New State Entertainment
- Catalogue Number
- Release Date
- October 27, 2023