Last Harbour – After The Flatlands

Last Harbour - After The Flatlands

Last Harbour – After The Flatlands

Along with news that a new album is in the works for arrival in 2015 comes the launch of a Last Harbour archive series – via Bandcamp – to help raise funds for imminent record-releasing costs.  Whilst two simultaneously-appearing digital-only live recordings of Manchester shows from 2009 and 2012 provide good quality examples of the group’s better known expansive on-stage ensemble operations, this third collection (available as a download and as a very limited cassette) digs far deeper into the Last Harbour store cupboard, for misplaced curios taped between 1999 and 2004.

Collating tracks put down with basic but imaginatively-used 4-track and 8-track set-ups and rewinding as far back as the band’s primordial Leicester beginnings, After The Flatlands impeccably represents the more mysterious, elemental and intimate side of Last Harbour.  Heavily-sprinkled with ‘should-have-been-album-tracks’ the collection pools together pieces re-recorded more formally elsewhere, compilation contributions and previously unheard material from a variety of Last Harbour line-ups.

Last Harbour - After The Flatlands (letter-pressed cassette edition)

Last Harbour – After The Flatlands (letter-pressed cassette edition)

Those fond of the group’s most experimental and more instrumental excursions are certainly in for a treat (as are those who enjoyed the fairly recent A.R.C. Soundtracks side-project release from Last Harbour co-founders David Armes and Kev Craig).  Amongst this enthralling tranche of the anthology you will find a murky organ-led take on “3am” (heard in alternate form on 2000’s rare Hidden Songs 7” EP), the languid wordless low-end loveliness of “A Journey North,” the sublime shadowy enigmas of “Last Drive Taken,” the eerie twinkling of “After The Flatlands,” the hushed yet foreboding “I’ll See” and the plaintive violin-framed and spoken-word ruminations of “The Note.”

Across the more song-based passages of this set further riches are also to be found.  Highlights include the convincing murder-balladry of “Out Across Flatlands” (previously released in a VPRO radio session incarnation on 2001’s An Empty Box Is My Heart mini-album), the organ-wheezing romance of a formative run through “When A Bird Sings,” the languorous prowling of “The Beast Of Burden,” a gorgeous chamber-folk cover of Will Oldham’s “Old Jerusalem” (rescued from the I Am Cold Rock, I Am Dull Grass tribute album), the skeletal atmospherics of the previously unaired “Until” and a warmer earlier reading of the sorrowful “Serpents” (re-cut for 2005’s Hold Fast, Pioneer album on Tonguemaster).

Taken altogether, these 16 no-longer-lost tracks capture a version of Last Harbour that some latter-day followers may be less familiar but should certainly become acquainted with.  In short, this is undoubtedly one of the most essential Last Harbour releases to date.

Little Red Rabbit Records