The putrid debauchery of the lads and lasses on MTV’s hit reality-show, Geordie Shore, has sent shockwaves around the globe in recent months and it has reportedly outraged those closer to home in Newcastle, leaving us with a fairly biased image of the people in the North East. Further away from the city lights and from the mouth of the River Tyne, however, surfaces Lanterns On The Lake, with their elegant debut album, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home. The record brims with nautical imagery and deeply poignant lyrics – a far cry from the cries of “on it like a car bonnet” – and radiates extremely elevating music, which varies from nu-folk, chamber pop and shoegaze, to post-rock and classical sounds. The creative sextet is certainly a little hard to pigeonhole, which is good news for the fixed media portrayals of the Tyne and Wyre.
‘If I’ve Been Unkind’ is a perfect example of where the band are complicating current perceptions of the recent ‘nu-folk’ scene. The track lingers with traditional folk guitars, picked beneath Andy Sykes’ solid Geordie hum and archaic talk, ‘When you went missing, I looked almost everywhere, I sailed the seas, You were never even there.’ It all seems very predictable until bowed guitars, classical piano and giant reverb creeps in; creating a wholly new sound that shifts any nu-folk Mumford & Sons comparisons right over to the sonic-size reverberations of Sigur Rós. The immediacy of ‘If I’ve Been Unkind’ also contrasts vastly with the strange, experimental electronic glitches and scurrying tick-tocks in album opener, ‘Lungs Quicken.’ While Hazel Wilde’s celestial whispers take a little while to adjust to, glowing harmonies soon trickle in and add a beautiful gravity to her voice, which gently introduces the band’s contemplative sound.
The relaxed pace of the first three tracks (‘Lungs Quicken’, ‘If I’ve Been Unkind’ and ‘Keep On Trying’) does begin to stagnate, but this is entirely contrasted by Wilde’s Sean-Nós-like solo singing in ‘Ships In The Rain’, which laments the true story of a Tynemouth boy who went missing at sea, with only fragile drones and ‘oohs’ looming in the background. ‘A Kingdom’ explodes after the silence of ‘Ships In The Rain’, with galloping rhythms, American slide-guitars, meandering violins and low and high octaves bouncing between Wilde and Sykes. It possesses a different kind of energy that intelligently breaks the album up and boasts the sextet’s diversity with its vibrant and warm country pulse.
The weaker points in the album are where stripped pianos that accompany Wilde’s vocals are the centrepiece . ‘Blanket Of Leaves’ and ‘I Love You, Sleepyhead’ both feature a piano that overpowers Wilde’s delicate vocals, and, by nature of the multitude of instruments used on the majority of the record, the keys are simply too lacklustre. Thankfully, ‘You’re Almost There’, with its lower piano bass notes , addictive high-note Massive Attack key progression and accompanying creaky violins render it poles apart from the previous tracks.
Conversely, nestled between the sleepy pianos in the latter part of the record is the impossibly breathtaking, ‘Tricks’. Celtic violins ebb and flow with twinkling glockenspiel melodies, and tribal beats carry the boom of the bass and piano notes before the song swells in a shimmering wave of gigantic ethereal sounds. It is undoubtedly the most stunning track on the record, where the sextet’s experimentation falls perfectly into place and resonates with you for ours, just like the core of the album.
Lanterns On The Lake have hand-crafted a diverse record that overflows with all the maturity needed to mend some of the cracks in the media’s portrayal of the images and sounds of Newcastle. There is certainly scope for them to push the boundaries of their musical identity even further in any later releases, and here’s to hoping that they produce an even more beautiful record than this wonderful debut.
Released on 13th September 2011 by Bella Union