Caul is the latest album from Manchester-based Last Harbour, and it is a dark, gothic and intriguing listen.
Bearing in mind that the band is based in Manchester, it doesn’t immediately strike you as a product of this city if you take the perspective of musical history. But if you consider its architecture, climate and claustrophobic feel of the buildings towering above you (and hailing from Manchester myself I love it) then it is indeed a body of work that is inspired, if not directly, by the former Cottonopolis.
Opening tracks Feint and Fracture-Fragment are slow burning efforts that set the tone of doom and gloom. The vocals of K. Craig powering thunderously above carefully crafted music of his bandmates.
With Guitar Neck the formidable voice of K. Craig becomes more softly spoken such as that of a poet reciting his lines over a tune that echoes, for me at least, More News from Nowhere by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – quite a testament. Combined together you have one of the true highlights of the album, and a track of the year.
Musically speaking there are a myriad of influences. Horse Without A Rider would make a Country and Western musician proud (in fact, when I first heard this on shuffle I thought I’d downloaded a C&W album!); Before the Ritual (recently released as a single from the album) combines stomping blues-rock with a psychedlically tinged organ for a good old bang of the head.
(H/T to The Skinny)
The album closes with The Promise, a 13 minute epic which, thankfully, doesn’t feel like 13 minutes. From minimalistic soundscaping at the start, it kicks into top gear just around the 7-minute mark with soaring strings, a driving militaristic drumbeat and doo-wop backing vocals. Yes, you read that right! It’s a cracking, ambitious and pays off delightfully, showcasing that doom, gloom and the gothic aren’t the only strengths of the band. There’s even a funky bit off bass in there straight from the disco floor!
If you are a fan of dark, interesting music and dark, powerful vocals you’ll find that this is an album right up your street. If you like to be challenged, and enjoy a variety of styles that go back and forth then you’ll enjoy it even more.
Caul by Last Harbour is released on 9th February on Gizeh Records.