dinsdag 14 januari 2014

Antiphon. Midlake

Seldom a change of singer went by so unnoticed by me as with Midlake. As if the change affected the band sound not at all. Perhaps that is explained by the fact that guitarist Eric Pulido's voice can be heard on all three earlier Midlake's album as backing vocalist. He has the same dreamy quality to his voice as Tim Smith added to the band. He left in 2012 while recording Midlake's fourth album. The band re-recorded everything after Smith's departure which resulted in Antiphon.

Antiphon is a word with several meanings or connotations. A breed of grasshopper, a composition by Benjamin Britten and a Greek sofist. In this case the title refers to Tom Smith's departure. In that sense this album is an antiphon.

Midlake continues where it left off with 'The courage of others'. My first impression is that I like Antiphon better. The songs flow somewhat more easily. In my review of 'The trials of Van Occupanther (2006) I laid it rather thick on it that Midlake has a clear cut The Moody Blues influence in its music. This has returned on Antiphon. A progrock sound with layers of themes and songs spun out ad infinitum with pyrotechnics on instruments and all? No, Midlake has a fairly sober style. A flute is about as wild as it gets. Over the music there is solemn singing by Eric Pulido, multi-tracked or with band members in support. The music on Antiphon is a rather stern affair.

Despite the fact that this music is not made for laughs, there is more than enough to enjoy. The surprising instrumental 'Vale' is wild by Midlake's standards. There is some rough edged guitar playing in a song that holds many mood changes. It is new member Jesse Chandler who claims a vast supporting role here with the flute that plays a role in 'Vale' and the beautiful 'Aurora gone' that follows 'Vale'.

With Antiphon Midlake has crept even more into the psychedelic prog atmospheres than ever before. I'm even remembered of 'A Friend of mine', Field's brilliant single from 1973. One of my treasured 45s. CSN's first record in the singing, not the orchestration. This all sounds like it is just old; true. So let me focus on 'This weight' instead. Where the bass does a pleasant dum dum-dum, the drums are going through this great pattern, that fills the sound. McKenzie Smith came up with something quite modern here and the same goes for the guitar picking (and sound) as well as the acoustic guitar eruptions. All over a The Moody Blues melody. So Midlake is excused as far as being an "old" band is concerned.

Antiphon is an album to listen to. Anyone who takes the time to do this discovers a richness in sounds and melodies. Every track has hidden treasures in there to discover and follow through. Some seem like lakes of stillness, mind, the deep water big fishes sort of lakes, others like woods with the wind blowing through the leaves. Rustling and ever changing patterns of sound. Sometimes up close and busy, then far away, but coming closer. Midlake is able to capture these sort of moods in a perfect and pleasant way. Listen to 'Corruption' and you will know what I mean.

Following Midlake since 'Van Occupanther', the album that included 'Roscoe', my favourite Midlake track, I have to say that Antiphone is one huge step forward after two steps back. Antiphone holds everything that could make it my favourite Midlake album to date.


You can listen to 'Antiphon' here.

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