Gizeh Records – GZH67 – 1st April 2016
Last Harbour aren’t exactly renowned for their prolific output. They may have released six albums, but it’s taken the best part of 17 years, and the gap between the last two albums was a full four years. So, for Paler Cities to follow less than a year after their last long player, the immense Caul, feels like a real step-up in terms of momentum. The 7” single is accompanied by a brace of digital-only tracks, and the quality of the material is both consistent and superlative.
They’ve struck a rich seam of gloomy post-punk folk music, and ‘Paler Cities’ indicates a further evolution, showcasing a new-found stripped back approach to the compositions. A tense, chorus-heavy guitar provides a suitably stark backdrop to K Craig’s intonations of mournful longing delivered in his signature cavernous baritone.
Flipside ‘The Curved Road’ is a brooding, introspective effort which goes deep inside while evoking dark late-night imagery and conjuring psychological drama. The stealthy, almost subterranean, wandering bassline really makes it.
The digital tracks are of an equal calibre: ‘A Better Man’ is beautifully lugubrious and understated, dripping with minor-key violin, and with its chiming guitars and sad-sounding string arrangements, the darkly dreamy ‘Witness’, with its sweeping vistas, displays post-rock tendencies (or, more specifically, it echoes I Like Trains at their most melancholy).
There’s an overarching theatricality to the four tracks on offer here, and while they’re downtempo and downbeat, the aching beauty that lies in their shadowy depths is utterly compelling.