Currently celebrating 20 years at the helm of revered record label Bella Union, Simon Raymonde marks another personal achievement, a new collaboration with drummer Richie Thomas. Lost Horizons debut album, Ojalá, is a rare sighting of two gifted musicians who, for one reason or another, have been largely absent from music making for the last two decades. Raymonde, of course, was one third of pop visionairies the Cocteau Twins while Thomas cut his teeth with post-rock pioneers Dif Juz.
And Lost Horizons doesn’t come half-arsed either, Ojalá incorporating a heady cast of guest singers including long-time favourites of Raymonde’s (Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit and Ghostpoet no less) as well as new names such as Beth Canon, Hilang Child and Karen Peris of The Innocence Mission on her very first collaboration. Which all begs the question is it any bloody good?
While lead release ‘The Places We’ve Been’ landed somewhat predictably between the Cocteaus and, say, Mazzy Starr, the template on Ojala leans more towards a rich melancholy with themes of death and deceit, while hints of Björk at her gentlest or Coldplay at their most introspective keep things relatively upbeat. All in all, the Lost Horizons ensemble have created over an hour of exquisite, expansive and diverse ethereal dream pop. It’s overlong at 15 tracks but from the soulful drowsiness of ‘Bones’ and the genuine highlight (and Ghostpoet featuring) ‘Reckless’, to dreamier invocations like ‘She Led Me Away’ and its lengthiest trip, ‘The Engine’ there must be something for everyone of a certain age and taste. ‘The Engine’, at nearly eight minutes, sticks out like a sore thumb as the centrepiece and it doesn’t disappoint, the most instant and hit-shaped offering (paradoxically given its length) here. But anyone looking for Thomas’s post-rock influence or maybe a more progressive trip-hop vibe will be disappointed and often Ojala is forgettable and lacklustre, in fact a general lack of percussion left me underwhelmed. That said when it hits the spot, it is extremely effective, such as the off kilter change in pace on alt-ballad ‘Asphyxia’ and the striking piano on the self-explanatory ‘Frenzy, Fear’ which add intensity and intrigue to the sound. Moments of drama are sporadic such as on The Tide and there is the occasional louder, faster detour (‘Life Inside A Paradox’ with Sharon Van Etten on backing vocals) or the subtle politicizing and surprise brass on closer ‘Stampede’.
This record is not for everyone but fans of either musician or any of the plethora of contributors will find something to enjoy within its charming, ethereal walls and it certainly would be essential for Cocteau Twins or Bella Union completists.
Ojalá is out now on Bella Union.