Lost Horizons & Midlake’s Tim Smith pair up

Today marks the return of one of Bella Union’s best-loved artists as Lost Horizons share their new track “Grey Tower” which features former Midlake singer Tim Smith on guest vocals. Taken from their upcoming LP In Quiet Moments, due out 26th February, the video for “Grey Tower” can be viewed below.

Of the track Simon Raymonde of Lost Horizons says: I have always gravitated towards voices that are doused with but preferably drowning in melancholy. When I heard Tim sing with Midlake for the first time in 2004, I was excited both by his abilities as an author, to create strange visionary characters within their own world, inhabiting these songs, and for the unique quality in his voice to move even the most cold-hearted soul. That I managed to tease another song out of him (Smith also contributed “She Led Me Away” on our debut Ojalá) as he works away on his long-awaited debut album with his new band Harp, feels almost wrong, but I know that when you are working alone on your own music you sometimes cannot see the wood for the trees, and having a new project to work on, can seem like a good idea. A break from the rituals. When I began recording this piece I think the music SCREAMED “yearning for Tim Smith” literally as the notes were playing themselves. We are blessed to have one of the most affecting voices in modern music grace our wee tune.” 

Tim Smith adds: “Honestly, it almost didn’t happen.  It should’ve been a breeze to sing over since the original backing track Simon and Richie made seemed so well suited for me. However, the search for the right melody was a big mystery, eluding me for weeks, till I nearly threw in the towel. Music never seems to come easy to me, so this was not unfamiliar territory.  An idea did finally strike in the final hours, allowing everything to fall into place.” 

In other news, Lost Horizons have also shared an extraordinary montage video filled with striking imagery for the track “Cordelia” directed by visionary filmmaker Jonathan Caouette, who also created the video for John Grant’s classic “Glacier”. Caouette says of the film: For me, “Cordelia” is a meditation on a mesh of feelings I think we’re all reflecting on right now: memory, loss, the interconnectedness of love and sadness, and the inescapability of impermanence.” 

In Quiet Moments features a stellar array of musical guests including John Grant, C Duncan, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio, Penelope Isles, Karen Peris (the innocence mission), Tim Smith (Midlake), Ren Harvieu and many more. The 16-track album will be released in two sections. The first half (8 tracks) will be released digitally 4th December with the second half and physical release following on 26th February 2021. 

In 2017, Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas had both abstained from making music for 20 years until they united as Lost Horizons and released a stunning debut album, Ojalá – the Spanish word for “hopefully” or “God willing.” 

“These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world.” Thomas said at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music…. And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!” 

Thomas’ hopes had a mixed response. On the plus side, the new Lost Horizons album In Quiet Moments is an even stronger successor to Ojalá with another distinguished cast of guest singers and a handful of supporting instrumentalists embellishing the core duo’s gorgeously free-flowing and loose-limbed blueprint that one writer astutely labelled, “melancholy-delia.” 

On the minus side, any hope for a better world, as Earth continues to freefall toward political and social meltdown. Then, to make matters worse, as Raymonde and Thomas buckled down to create the improvised bedrock that Lost Horizons is built on, the former’s mother died. At least Raymonde had a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.”

In Quiet Moments has its pockets of loss but – aligned to the concept of ‘hope’ – the album is more about rebirth than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” says Thomas. “But both albums have a great energy about them.” 

Those energy levels undulate across a dazzling array of moods and voices; as broad as the name Lost Horizons sounds. Take the first three tracks: the melting rapture of ‘Halcyon’ featuring Jack Wolter of Bella Union signings Penelope Isles, the simmering urban-soulful ‘I Woke Up With An Open Heart’ featuring Nubiya Brandon of The Hempolics and the quintessentially melancholy-delic ‘Grey Tower’ featuring a returning Tim Smith . 

Also returning from Ojalá are Gemma Dunleavy, Karen Peris (the innocence mission), Cameron Neal (Horse Thief) and Marissa Nadler. The last three are all Bella Union family members; likewise, John Grant (the lush, choral ‘Cordelia’, etched by David Rothon’s pedal steel and Fiona Brice’s elegant strings) and Ren Harvieu (a sultry ‘Unravelling In Slow Motion’), and new signing Laura Groves (the jazz-tinged ‘Blue Soul’), all making their Lost Horizons debuts. 

Dana Margolin of the hugely acclaimed Porridge Radio lends the rampant ‘One For Regret’’ her trademark bristling energy; at the other end of the spectrum, ‘Flutter’ features Rosie Blair (of former Bella Union signing Ballet School) adding exquisite blue notes to a stark palate of Thomas’ piano and Fiona Brice’s strings. Deploying his A&R acumen, Raymonde called on new Swedish discovery Kavi Kwai for the Cocteaus-evoking ‘Every Beat That Passed’ (“You can’t make music for as long as I have and drop all your influences and habits overnight,” says Raymonde). Also present are Lily Wolter (of Penelope Isles) under her solo pseudonym KookieLou, and C Duncan. A richer and more varied cast list would be very hard to find. 

“I think In Quiet Moments is more in the direction of where we’re going,” Thomas concludes. “People have retreated into their lives and, in those quiet moments, reflected on the world, how we fit in and who we trust. Maybe the next album will be about rebellion! But the road is long and winding. We just need to express ourselves in how we feel at the time.” 

Lost Horizon have previously shared a video for track ‘I Woke Up With An Open Heart’ and recently announced news of a London live performance at the Scala in Autumn 2021. Tickets here.

Happy Release Day E.B. The Younger

Today at Bella Union we are celebrating the release of To Each His Own, the debut album by E.B. The Younger, the solo project from long standing Bella Union family member and Midlake frontman Eric Pulido. 

To Each His Own is a deeply personal record rooted in Pulido’s love of warm, glowing rock, folk and country hues that came of age in the 1970s woven with contemporary recalibrations: guitars ripple, sigh and sizzle alongside gliding keyboards over crisp, choppy and becalmed rhythms. Pulido’s lyrics equally look back and forth, philosophising about his place in the world, the choices he’s made, and where they have taken him.

Or, as he describes To Each His Own, “an eleven-song journey through the life and times of a wayward Midlaker seeking to find purpose in an uncharted land. Will he find his way? Listen, and ye shall find.”

Pulido’s “wayward” phase began in 2014 with a break from Midlake, “to invest time in kids and musical projects less physically demanding”, he says. His first project was the transatlantic collective BNQT, a self-described ‘poor man’s Travelling Wilburys’ featuring Pulido, Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Fran Healy (Travis), Jason Lytle (Granddaddy) and Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) who recorded the 2017 album BNQT – Volume 1. But To Each His Own is all Pulido – or rather, E.B. The Younger.

“It’s an antiquated way of naming a younger member of a family,” he explains. “I’m expressing, simply, that something greater came before me. It’s countering the idea in today’s culture that everything revolves around ourselves, that we’re the most important thing in the world. I feel that humility is a lost virtue – you only have to look at America’s current leader to see just how lost – which I want this record to represent. Honesty, empathy, love.”

In this case, honesty begins at home. Solo debutantes typically distance themselves from their musical past, but Pulido freely acknowledges Midlake’s presence on To Each His Own, from the three Midlakers in his backing band to an album title that stems from his memories of band discussions. Says Pulido: “It’s very common in bands to have artistic differences, and we were no exception. Saying ‘To each his own’ was almost a way to collectively acquiesce and move forward when differences would arise. It’s OK that we feel differently, because both opinions are valid. The phrase is also about me doing something on my own, a statement that it’s OK to define who you are outside of what has defined you before.”

With Pulido on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, he drafted in Midlakers (and BNQT contributors) Joey McClellan (electric guitar), McKenzie Smith (drums) and Jesse Chandler (flute), who dovetail with Scott Lee (bass), Daniel Creamer (keyboards) and Beau Bedford (keyboards) from local country-funksters The Texas Gentlemen to form an empathic ‘alt.Wrecking Crew’ of session players. Bedford is also the album’s principal producer, while studio engineer and Centromatic drummer Matt Pence acted as the overarching producer, alongside Pulido, as well as adding percussion and occasional drums.

As Pulido explains, “Midlake self-produced and recorded everything, but as with BNQT, I wanted to embrace collaboration. I’d present songs with just voice and acoustic guitar and ask the musicians where they heard things going, and so we built the songs up organically.”

Within that organic build, Pulido still had specific ideas in mind. He singles out the late, great Harry Nilsson as a key influence. “Midlake songs were often cerebral and minor-key and I wanted some of mine to be more playful and buoyant and major key, which Harry did so well, while still making deep, thoughtful music.”

Pulido also hears traces of The Eagles, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Wings and CS&N in To Each His Own, plus an “eighties vibe” to the record’s freewheeling lead single ‘Used To Be’, inspired by The Last Waltz, the film documentary about Pulido’s all-time favourites, The Band. As he recalls, “The guys are sitting backstage playing ‘Old Time Religion’, and Robbie Robertson says, ‘It’s not like it used to be!’, which has always stuck with me. But it’s OK by me that it’s not like it used to be. Embrace where you’re at, and look forward. Be both the old and the young.”

The closing title track emanates a palpable sense of peace while crystalising Pulido’s past-present/old-young mindset: “I’ve been about all alone / I’ve never felt so good before… And what we did before / No I do not ignore”. With a new BNQT album in the works Pulido is already looking forward. But his present is E.B The Younger, and his effortlessly melodic, gorgeous songs invested with honesty, empathy and love. Listen, and ye shall find.