Last Harbour – “Paler Cities” b/w “The Curved Road” 7″ & A.R.C. Soundtracks – From A Shattered Beam

Having stylistically stretched themselves wider of late – with last year’s Last Harbour album Caul and 2013’s full-length Archive: Volume One debut as side-project A.R.C. Soundtracks – long-time collaborators David Armes and Kev Craig return once more with two new near-simultaneous off-piste releases that extend their reach even further; into both more direct and more abstract realms.

Last Harbour - "Paler Cities" b/w "The Curved Road" 7"

Last Harbour – “Paler Cities” b/w “The Curved Road” 7″

The most essential of these two fresh outings is a new 7” from Last Harbour (the first for the band on the format since 2000’s inaugural Hidden Songs EP) on Gizeh Records.  Dramatically but not clumsily jettisoning the once trademark rustic arrangements already pushed to the back on Caul, these two newly-cut tracks – the hypnotic guitar-twinning “Paler Cities” and the prowling bass and synth led “The Curved Road” – find the band (now minus long-time keyboard-player and second vocalist Gina Murphy) burrowing further into a neon-lit world equally influenced Joy Division and early-Roxy Music.  It’s a sonic shift that suits them well and which will hopefully be expanded upon for the next album.  For added value the package also includes a download of two Caul outtakes – the languid string-soaked “A Better Man” and the plangent “Witness” – which should please the faithful.

A.R.C. Soundtracks - From A Shattered Beam

A.R.C. Soundtracks – From A Shattered Beam cassette

In contrast, the new cassette-based release on Sacred Tapes from A.R.C. Soundtracks, From A Shattered Beam, takes the two Last Harbour co-founders into even more incorporeal ‘barely-there’ sonic territories than those sculpted on the more-structured Archive: Volume One.  Evolved from an art installation soundtrack at Islington Mill’s attic space, the nine gathered improvised, manipulated, chopped-up and remoulded tracks – which were cut with vintage synths, drum machines, pedal steel guitar, oblique percussion and buried spoken vocals – are certainly not easy to pin down.  Yet they do cast alluringly atmospheric spells – recalling the elemental sparseness of Labradford, Low’s most experimentalist early detours, Mogwai’s more minimalistic moodscapes and the dankest non-rock corners of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ From Her To Eternity – which confirm that the A.R.C. Soundtracks mission is far more than just a DIY diversion between more formal Last Harbour duties.

Jointly these releases show two different but equally as questing sides to the enduring Armes and Craig double-act.  Long may they run together.

Gizeh Records / Sacred Tapes