Archive for September, 2015

Review: Last Harbour – Caul

Manchester’s Last Harbour have been offloading their doom-laden rock to angst lovers for over a decade now and it is to be expected that their new album ‘Caul’ will reveal no sign of them lightening the mood. Yet there’s shafts of light here which indicate there is hope after all these years.

Last Harbour Album Cover

‘Caul’ opens like a finale with mournful drones and strings and a sedate piano melody emulating the last paragraph of a tragic novel. After this brief instrumental comes the first song, ‘Fracture Fragment’, where K. Craig’s lugubrious tones set the scene for more familiar territory. It’s a weighty number which lurches all the way from bleakness to misery, yet elegantly so.

Then come the surprises. ‘Guitar Neck’ benefits from a shift in momentum, as guitars and rhythms picking up the urgency and intensity; resembling the missing link between Piano Magic and The Stranglers. ‘Before The Ritual’ veers even more towards rock and there’s even a playful keyboard motif thrown in for good measure.

Further about turns arrive via ‘Horse Without A Rider’, where they move into the warmth of country music before unleashing a post-rock storm. ‘The Deal’ starts like the main event; beginning so ominously with sinister string segments and then relentless percussion. The only disappointment is that it doesn’t build into the towering epic that it promises and merely broods. As the album draws towards its conclusion, ‘The Pressure’ is as weary as the title suggests and final song ‘The Promise’ is a beautifully-arranged suite; seguing from its forlorn beginning to an uplifting middle section and then reverting to a valedictory, peaceful end.

‘Caul’ offers unexpected shifts in pace and style without disappointing fans of their previous work. So their glass is still half empty but Last Harbour offer comfort and solace at the end of the voyage.

Web Sites:
Last Harbour Official Site
Gizeh Records Label Site
Last Harbour – Caul on SoundCloud

Further Listening:
Piano Magic, Tomorrow We Sail, Her Name Is Calla

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Review: Echodrone – Five

Everything about the title to Echodrone’s latest album fits. ‘Five’ is the San Francisco outfit’s fifth album, they have five band members and on this evidence they would certainly make the top five of many best of shoegaze/dream pop lists too.

Echodrone Album Cover

Opening up with the kind of vintage synth intro most commonly associated with Boards Of Canada, the whispered vocals and crunching guitar soon add menace to disturb the serenity. It may be an incongruous way to start but the song evolves into something special as all the initially disparate layers form a lovely melodic whole. Satisfyingly muscular rhythms and a dense framework of slow-building guitars or the cornerstones which guide ‘Falling From Planes’, ‘Motion Pictures’ and ‘Glacial Place’ towards classy shoegaze territory. Amongst other highlights, On ‘Noise Bed’ the angelic tones of Rachel Lopez take centre stage as they are set against lilting key changes, ‘When The Two Ends Meet’ pushes and drives towards euphoric places whilst ‘Less Than Imaginary’ relies on a fairly simple but addictive hook.

Some intensity is lost a little towards the conclusion of the record but otherwise Echodrone provide good value over an hour’s worth of expertly-produced music. Throughout, they exhibit similar qualities to long-serving British act Engineers, steadily forming sumptuous layers of carefully cultivated sound whilst searching for (and often finding) the perfect tunes.

Web Sites:
Echodrone Official Site
Echodrone on Saint Marie Records
Echodrone SoundCloud

Further Listening:
Engineers, Her Vanished Grace, Slowdive

Review: Arc Waves – Arc Waves EP

Having first written about Brooklyn’s Elaine Lachica some thirteen years ago, it’s fascinating to gain an insight into the development of a musician. As a solo artist, Lachica immediately stood out with her impressive vocal range and inventive way with song creation but she did seem like a talent who needed a bit more focus, even if her most recent solo album 2009’s ‘I Think I Can See The Ocean’ was a gem. Arc Waves are a new band based fronted by the vocal talents of Lachica and – like her solo records – they’re not content to stick to one genre either.

Arc Waves EP Cover

For opener ‘Half Dome’, Lachica’s ululations are kept in check by shoegaze-indebted guitars and nagging indie pop basslines. She is more controlled for a gentler but ‘Look Straight At Me’, which heads for the territory of dream pop heaven.
On the strength of these first two tracks alone, Arc Waves are clearly a good match for each other; complimenting vocal originality with tight musicianship.

For the straighter-edged reverb-heavy rock of ‘Cascades’, however, the band sound less interesting, with Lachica’s style somewhat at odds with the Interpol-like production. By the time of the final offering, ‘Galaxies’ the group have moved into ambient rock circles and it’s no exaggeration to say the group seem to be attempting a more danceable version of latter-day Cocteau Twins on this song and with some success too.

This is an interesting move for Lachica after her somewhat wayward displays on previous albums. Perhaps the unity of working in a band gives her the solid structures she has been craving but importantly her individual talents are not compromised here either, even if sometimes the genre choice seems like an awkward fit. Minor quibbles aside then, all of this promises much for the debut album.

Web Sites:
Arc Waves Bandcamp

Further Listening:
The Attic Ends, Elaine Lachica, Cocteau Twins


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