sat 13/07/2024

Album: Harp - Albion | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Harp - Albion

Album: Harp - Albion

The exquisite comeback of former Midlake mainstay Tim Smith

Harp's "Albion": gorgeous

After leaving Midlake while recording their fourth album, Tim Smith said he was pursuing music under the name Harp. That was in 2012. Smith had been the Denton, Texas-based band’s singer and main songwriter. Without him, Midlake pushed on and issued 2013’s still-stunning Antiphon album.

A decade later Smith is releasing Albion, his first record as Harp. During the interregnum, his only known musical activities were appearing on the 2017 and 2021 albums by Lost Horizons, a project driven by former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde. Harp, Midlake and Lost Horizons are all on Bella Union, Raymonde’s Brighton-based label. And Albion’s “Seven Long Suns” features guitar played by Max Kinghorn-Mills of Brighton psychedelic folk band Hollow Hand – who are not on Bella Union. Though “Seven Long Suns” is not of Midlake vintage, its title was originally considered for what became Antiphon. Bassist and fellow former Midlake member Paul Alexander is on a couple of the new album’s tracks. Wheels within wheels.

Some more is known. There was divorce, after which Smith moved in with his parents and then met his wife Kathi Zung (responsible for Albion’s drum programming; she is also a stop-motion animation model fabricator and puppet maker – her credits include Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio). He began listening to 1981’s Cure album Faith while also soaking up Cocteau Twins, Joy Division, The Smiths and Tears For Fears. But Faith hit him hardest. He says he listened to it "non-stop for three years.” Now, after a prodigious gestation, Albion.

The opening track is the watery instrumental “The Pleasant Grey,” a title in-line with Smith’s yen for The Cure (revealingly it’s “grey,” not the US-styled “gray”). Other tracks include “Country Cathedral Drive," “Daughters of Albion,” “Shining Spires” and “Herstmonceux” (after the Sussex village with a medieval castle). There are also “Moon,” “Seven Long Suns,” “Silver Wings” and “Throne of Amber,” All redolent of Romantic-era English history and mysticism.

As to what Albion sounds like? Antiphon-era Midlake and The Cure are touchstones as are, to lesser degrees, Australia's The Church and the Led Zeppelin of “Rain Song.” A gauzy Eighties feel is brought by the use of chorus-effect guitar and reverb. Ultimately, this foggy, reflective album sounds exactly as if its inspirations were filtered through the consciousness of a former leading light of Midlake. In other words, it’s sumptuous. Live shows please.


During ‘Albion’s’ decade-long gestation, Tim Smith listened to The Cure’s 1981 album ‘Faith’ non-stop for three years


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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