Midlake – For the Sake of Bethel Woods album review: A dream come true

American band have have found a different kind of voice on their fifth album

For the Sake of Bethek Woods
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Artist: Midlake
Genre: Alternative
Label: Bella Union

Midlake’s fifth record was partly brought about by a dream that keyboardist Jesse Chandler had, in which his late father urged him to reform the band. That dream informs the album in various different ways, hazily navigating a sense of mystery, through explorations of loss, memory and reclamation.

Aided by producer John Congleton, the band have pared back the layered instrumentation of previous albums, and in doing so, have found a different kind of voice (and Eric Pulido's actual voice has never sounded better). A moving poeticism dances through the work, it's there in the psychedelic verve of Exile, the eerie pastoral Feast of Carrion, and the prog-led Gone.

Artfulness

There is a real artfulness here, from the baroque pop and sublime harmonies of The End, (reaching back to 2006’s The Trials of Van Occupanther) to the scorching guitars on Glistening – a lightness of purpose drives this work.

Considering some of the heavy preoccupations of the record, it is not defined by heaviness, Of Desire soars amid lovely piano – an exercise in a kind of sensuality, it brings to mind early Neil Young. The dazzling Bethel Woods, echoing The Last Broadcast-era Doves, with its brazenly brilliant drums, and amplified melancholy, it is a true highlight.

F Scott Fitzgerald once bitterly observed “there are no second acts in American lives”, this new incarnation of Midlake happily suggests otherwise.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture

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