Caul is the new album from Last Harbour. Based in the northern English city of Manchester, Last Harbour play music with a dark, gothic heart yet their songs are always beautiful and transcendent. After working with producer Richard Formby (Wild Beasts, Spacemen 3, Ghostpoet) on two previous albums, the band took time out after touring to build their own studio in 2013. This new album was recorded in that self-created space over a year between 2013-4 and bears testament to a patient and detailed recording process that allowed time for experimentation and careful arrangement.
Caul contains all of the band’s trademark bruised laments and doom-filled rock, but there is also an added layer of raw, bleak experimentation that marries ideally and simultaneously with brighter, almost joyous moments. Most noticeably, Guitar Neck moves from a metronomic, semi-spoken verse to a richly orchestrated chorus with the FX-heavy vocal of K. Craig soaring above the pulsing instrumentation. There’s another powerful moment in Fracture/Fragment where group vocals take centre stage and the record immediately takes on a deeper and wider atmosphere, whilst elsewhere Before The Ritual comes laced with vintage synths and organs. The Deal is a highlight, combining an insistent rhythm, menacing vocal and obscured analogue effects, leading off a trilogy of tracks which form the album’s second half, the negative image to the first half’s positive, two sides of the same story.
Final piece The Promise is the band’s most ambitious statement of their career so far. The epic 13 minute track is cinematic in scale, beginning with droning soundscapes and minimal notes that opens out into a beautiful, melodic section with rhythm-led breakdowns and doo-wop backing vocals, before descending to a haunting, sparse reverb-drenched coda. That song, and the album as a whole, makes clear the progression on Caul, from that of its predecessor Your Heart, It Carries the Sound. There is a new focus, a need to explore, a quest to push further into the void.