Indies only white 180g vinyl LP in a gatefold sleeve printed on matt card, printed inner sleeve with lyrics and digital download card.
Loss and hope, isolation and communion, the cessation and renewal of purpose. Timeless and salient, these themes echo throughout the fifth album from Midlake, their first since ‘Antiphon’ in 2013.
From the cover to the title and beyond, a longing to reconnect with that which seems lost and seek purpose in its passing sits at the record’s core. The cover star is keyboardist/flautist Jesse Chandler’s father, who, tragically, passed away in 2018. As singer Eric Pulido explains, “He was a lovely human, and it was really heavy and sad, and he came to Jesse in a dream. I reference it in a song. He said, ‘Hey, Jesse, you need to get the band back together.’ I didn’t take that lightly.”
A desire to commune with the past and connect with present, lived experience asserts itself from the opening of the album. ‘Bethel Woods’ sustains and develops that reconnection, evoking the steadfast and contemplative urgency of ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ to back a lyric steeped in yearning for a paradisal time and place of hope and optimism. Soaring guitars and atmospheric noise effects extend a sonic scope further developed by ‘Glistening,’ where arpeggios dance like light glancing off a lake. In just three songs, Midlake reintroduce themselves and reach out into fresh territory with a richly intuitive dynamism, honouring their past as a seedbed of possibility.
Elsewhere, the prog-enhanced funk-rock of ‘Gone’ seeks to find hope in relationships that seem fragile. The ELO-esque ‘Meanwhile…’ draws inspiration from what happened when Midlake paused after ‘Antiphon’, developing universal resonance as a song about the beautiful growths that can emerge from the cracks and gaps between things. ‘Dawning’ draws on 1970s soft-rock stylings for another song searching for hope, its keyboard line reaching out towards an uncertain future while everything seems to collapse around it; ‘The End’ reflects on the difficulties of partings.
On-hand was new collaborator John Congleton, who produced, engineered and mixed the album, marking Midlake’s first record with an outside producer. “I can’t say enough just how much his influence brought our music to another sonic place than we would have,” says Pulido. “I don’t want to record without a producer again. Part of that is the health of the band, because as you get older you get more opinionated and you kind of need that person who says, ‘No, it’s going to be this way!’ It’s hard to do that with your friends.”
The result is a powerful, warming expression of resolve and renewal for Midlake, opening up new futures for the band and honouring their storied history. Formed in the small town of Denton, with roots in the University of North Texas College of Music, Midlake delivered an auspicious debut with 2004’s ‘Bamnan and Slivercork’. For the follow-up, they looked further afield and deeper within to deliver 2006’s wondrous ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’, a modern classic pitched between 1871, 1971 and somewhere out of time: between Henry David Thoreau and Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush’, between 1970s Laurel Canyon thinking and a longing for something more mysterious.
Confidence bolstered by a growing fanbase and a developed sense of their own far-reaching abilities, Midlake – a band acutely attuned to seasonal shifts – then embraced change. In 2010, they visited darker psych-folk thickets for ‘The Courage of Others’ and backed John Grant on his lustrously spiky breakthrough album, ‘Queen of Denmark’. When singer Tim Smith departed Midlake in 2012, Pulido stepped up to the lead vocal role for 2013’s freshly exploratory ‘Antiphon’, teasing out singular routes through vintage electric-folk pastures.
In reuniting, the bandmates were adamant that Midlake needed their absolute focus. The result is an album of tremendously engaged thematic and sonic reach with a warm, wise sense of intimacy at its heart: an album to break bread and commune with, honour the past and travel onwards with. In ‘Bethel Woods’, Pulido sings of gathering seeds. On ‘For the Sake of Bethel Woods’, those seeds are lovingly nurtured, taking rich and spectacular bloom.
Feast of Carrion