With sustained excellence in its release schedule for the last several years, Bella Union appears to have joined the likes of 4AD and Moshi Moshi where simply the label’s name is a guarantee of quality. Simon Raymonde and his team have already released the likes of John Grant, Fleet Foxes and Beach House, and two years ago introduced us to Newcastle quintet Lanterns On The Lake‘s debut album Gracious Tide, Take Me Home.
That debut was a startling record in many ways – Paul Gregory’s powerful arrangements had echoes of the likes of Sigur Rós and Arcade Fire, and proved the perfect counterpoint to Hazel Wilde’s fragile yet powerful vocals. Until The Colours Run is the follow-up and is more of the same blissful stuff, although with a subtle shift in the band dynamic.
This time round, the band are without brothers Brendan and Adam Sykes, who left last year, and there’s more focus on Wilde as well – on the debut album, Gregory would sometimes take lead vocals, but on Until The Colours Run, Wilde takes centre stage on every track. It’s a canny move, for Wilde’s voice is startlingly good and often sounds quite haunting amidst the soundscapes on display.
Elodie makes for an exhilarating opening to the album, a symphony of instruments almost galloping in, before quietly hushing in time for Wilde’s voice to make itself heard. The intensity of the instrumentation is surprisingly emotional, and it’s easy to see why Lanterns On The Lake have toured with sometime labelmates Explosions In The Sky – they share a common talent for making the epic sound beautifully intimate.
It’s that intimate quality which keeps you coming back to Until The Colours Run. The Ghost That Sleeps In Me begins in frail and haunting fashion, before suddenly roaring out of the speakers in muscular fashion. Green And Gold is probably the most restrained moment on the album, a gorgeous piano ballad with Wilde sounding for all the world like Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star.
The lyrics throughout are pretty abstract, although the standout Another Tale From Another English Town is the most explicitly political song – a stark condemnation on the politics of austerity and the effect they’ve had on the band’s hometown of Newcastle – “We’ve been sold a thousand lies, we just wanted the quiet life, but they won’t stop until they see us in the ground”. It’s languid and sad, but also has a resolutely determined quality.
The title track seems to tackle similar issues (“So we’ll drink and we’ll sing on the breadline until the colours run”) but in a more uplifting way, with a sound reminiscent of early Arcade Fire, and there’s several moments, such as Picture Show, that produce the same feeling of ‘goosebumps down the spine’ that Elbow‘s first album Asleep At The Back did so well.
The only thing that Until The Colours Run misses is possibly a big crossover single, but frankly Lanterns On The Lake don’t need one. This is a gloriously atmospheric second album from a band who will surely soon be as lauded and acclaimed as their better-known labelmates.