Holed up in Distant Cities studios in Yorkshire, Newcastle quintet Lanterns on the Lake took just three weeks to craft an intense nine track record that expresses confusion, anxiety and longing for a societal course correction
Spook the Herd has been created with a backdrop of social unrest, political polarisation and a feeling that we’re not quite heading in the right direction.
For bands lucky enough to make it to long player number four, the pressure on recreating the success of earlier efforts can be too much and they crumble. Not so, Lanterns on the Lake.
‘When It All Comes True’ is a bold opener. It commands your attention, not through big statements, but the subtlety of its progression. A simple haunting piano finishes off the track as it slowly closes, backed by with distant echo of one of the song’s main melodies.
Single ‘Baddies’ targets a privileged antagonist “They’ve got the money/We’ve got heart”. At just under three minutes is the shortest track present by some distance, but is not alone in being quietly enigmatic.
Hazel Wilde’s lyrics pull towards the romantic in the beautiful ‘Every Atom’: “If I have to split every atom/Just to find a trace of you/That’s what I’ll do”. The final chorus delivery is heart wrenchingly apocalyptic.
Percussion is direct in places, but doesn’t overwhelm. Drummer Oliver Ketteringham’s stick-work may be overlooked until a third or fourth listen where, as you get comfortable with the refrains surrounding it, you appreciate how it configures the album’s personality.
Although Spook The Herd is more intimate than the band’s previous work, layered reverb adorns guitar inflections – double tracked vocals appear on tracks that require a little more depth too – and gives the album a cavernous quality.
If 2015’s Beings was a lush patchwork to be devoured, Spook The Herd is an undiscovered landscape to be studied. It’s in the shadows of the songs where the quality stands out. The decision to create an LP that puts greater responsibility on what isn’t being played is fearless, and ultimately, greatly satisfying.
‘Secrets and Medicine’ feels like one of the lightest tracks the band have produced, but at the same time one of the deepest. Stripped of rhythm section, it is a haunting lament picked out on a sparsely arranged piano and slowly stroked guitar.
It is not often that two songs sit so well next to each other, but the placement of ‘This is not a Drill’ is powerfully uplifting; the decision to place it after ‘Secrets and Medicine’ is inspired. The contrast between the two tracks as they run into and out of each other makes the sequence a positively spiritual experience.
Spook the Herd is extraordinarily pure. On each listen there are new subtle touches to uncover in the production, different melodies to follow and qualities in performance to admire.
Self aware and hopeful, Spook the Herd is a fitting record for our times.
Spook the Herd is available from Friday 21st February on Bella Union