by Oliver on December 6, 2023 in Album
Bittersweet, darkly seductive indie dark folk, permeated by a fog of goth, dark wave and new age post-punk: Tim Smith joins the band around 12 years after leaving Midlake with his wife Kathi Zung as Harp through Albion.
Albion has, to a certain extent, already become the album that people want The Courage of Others von Midlake (unless one is aiming for a stylistic return The Trials of Van Occupanther hoped, but was very happy with the group’s chosen path) would have dared to expect if Tim Smith had remained part of the band: From the intro The Pleasant Grey away (in a way via the interludes Chrystals and Moon are continued as subdued, rippling interludes, which do the album flow, which is not particularly fast anyway, but is very dense due to the omnipresent melancholy, to breathe deeply as instrumental idleness), Smith picks up unconditional associations with his Acts of Men and Co. create a mystical, calm folk that definitely fits in with the cult artwork.
Even there, in the beginnings of the record, the evolution of Harp over the horizon of that time Midlake because esoteric-spherical synths, anachronistic and yet seeming to come straight from the 80s, play a significant role in shaping the events and aesthetics.
The dark one I Am the Seed builds its character under a nostalgia and troubled grace, but also sounds like a decelerated, soft postpunk trance. A Fountain sways more conciliatory and gentle, lets his keyboards wander like brass arrangements, which is what he’s after Daughters of Albion almost uplifting in a comforting melancholy and with a great hook it offers an instant catchy tune that has fallen out of time and is so familiar: despite a stylistic unity that does not fall into any real uniformity Albion definitely variation. It’s not a difficult album, but an intuitive one, whose melodies develop a pleasant familiarity, although they serve the overarching atmosphere.
Country Cathedral Drive bubbles peacefully in the ambient, drifts into a delirious outro bordering on jamming and Shining Spires longs for the same solitude as one of the record’s obvious highlights How to Disappear Completely after the blossoming of a restrained solemnity a la Rufus Wainwright. Silver Wings has a bit The Smiths– and The Cure-Jangle flair in elegiac contemplation and Seven Long Suns at times sways under the patina of Celtic all-you-can-eat buffet muzak in progressive English traditionalism.
How much the finale of the record opens up afterwards – with the brisk dancing Throne of Amberwhich remains too melancholy for the dance floor with its painterly naturalism, and Herstmonceuxwhich from the sacred shimmer dives further into the 80s than the previous numbers here, but also reveals a hopeful and relaxed vein, while Smith intones like John Grant – but then also underlines that Albion is, over long stretches, an introspection brooding in its own juice; deals more consistently with its own past than with setting out for new shores.
With which Smith consciously accepts that his comeback will work more through the feeling of how damn good it feels to snuggle up to this charismatic voice again, to let it take you into an otherworldly world that has fallen out of time – that is to rely on understatement than per se inspire. Without any spectacle, however, Smith does little wrong, especially at this dark time of year.
Albion by Harp