Release Date: Sep 27, 2011
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Hoping to restore some cultural pride to Newcastle following the rather unflattering portrayal of their hometown on MTV reality show Geordie Shore, "folktronica" sextet Lanterns on the Lake couldn't be further removed from the loud perma-tanned wannabes who have given the city a rather derisory name. Subtlety may be an alien concept to their fame-hungry neighbors, but the collective's debut album, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, positively revels in it, as Hazel Wilde's gorgeously hushed vocals whisper an array of slow-burning melodies on 11 atmospheric tracks spaciously filled with gentle acoustics, softly brushed percussion, and soothing ambient electronica. Indeed, you could hear a pin drop on the sparse 73-second closer, "Not Going Back to the Harbour," the echo-laden Americana of "You're Almost There," and the mournful sea shanty "Ships in the Rain," a heartbreaking lament to a local fisherman who went missing at sea, all of which bear the hallmarks of the album's isolated Northumberland recording surroundings.
The misty waters of the River Tyne have long exerted a gravitational pull on poets, painters and lovelorn, heartbroken bards. Even to this day in my hometown, there remains a curious sense of past, present and future as you stare across history at the ageing cranes and warehouses nestling alongside luxury apartments and modern architecture. Like many other major river cities, Newcastle may have changed, but lifeblood and heritage flows deeply within the currents, ebbs and tides of the river that once sustained its every whim and desire.
For a band made entirely from pillows and bits of old cloud, it’s a surprise to find that [a]Lanterns On The Lake[/a] are actually from Newcastle, not some dusky Narnian island. The idyllic chill of their glitchy moodscapes and mournful arpeggios waft like spectres along the line between ’80s and ’90s folktronica such as [b]This Mortal Coil[/b], [a]Mazzy Star[/a] and [b]One Dove[/b], and nu-gaze pioneers [a]Sigur Ros[/a] and [a]The Radio Dept[/a]. The fragile ‘[b]Keep On Trying[/b]’ and ‘[b]Ships In The Rain[/b]’ are as alluring as siren calls through mist and ‘[b]A Kingdom[/b]’ is like a poltergeist [a]Arcade Fire[/a].
On “Not Going Back to the Harbour,” the final song on Lanterns on the Lake’s debut album, singer Hazel Wilde portrays a woman left waiting out on the docks. Though the song is a stripped-down guitar-vocal demo, the bare folk melody and lyric say a lot about the ten songs that have come before them on Gracious Tide, Take Me Home.First, this is a story written by a Newcastle, England, band that reflects their little dot on the map of the world. The album is full of images of ships at sea, or people lost at sea, or people waiting for people to come back from sea.
The sound is intimate, inviting, and cozy, as if you are listening among friends in a candlelit wood cabin in a secluded place. A soft pitter-patter of an electronic rhythm provides the bed for gentle piano chords and atmospheric swells of guitar and fiddle that waft in and out like thunder in the distance. A fragile, angelic voice whispers words of comfort in your ear, and then it happens.
Bella Union might just strike gold with Lanterns on the Lake, a sextet from Tyne and Wear whose key note, as the title of their debut album suggests, is plangency. Opening song Lungs Quicken crystallises their aesthetic: a rippling pulse of electronics ushers in a creamy violin and Hazel Wilde's gossamer vocal; the mood is hushed, sensual, restrained – until halfway through, when volume and emotion surge. If I've Been Unkind adds waves of guitar to this template; The Places We Call Home has a stomping backbeat; Tricks is illuminated by twinkling glockenspiel.
A luminous, lilting, lovely debut album, perfect as the nights begin to draw in. James Skinner 2011 Newcastle sextet Lanterns on the Lake have been quietly honing their sweeping, cinematic songs for a few years now, emerging with a debut LP refreshingly out of step with any current musical trends. The 11 songs that comprise Gracious Tide, Take Me Home source inspiration from the likes of Sigur Rós and Low; they unfurl slowly and deliberately, awash in melancholy and of a keen, natural beauty.