Lanterns burn brightest in the rain - Review

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PEOPLE spend their whole lives looking for it – who knew I would find it again tucked away upstairs in a rainy corner of Glasgow on a wet and windy Tuesday night?

A collection of pilgrims, drifters and dreamers congregated in King Tut’s to experience a shimmering collection of songs brought to life by a band so unlike anything on offer at the moment that they might well have stepped out of another world.

Lanterns on the Lake are the band you’ve always wanted, you just don’t know it yet.

The late John Peel used to talk about wandering from stage to stage at Glastonbury looking for something he’d never heard before, something he didn’t know existed ... looking for it.

It’s that yearning that drives people to scale lofty peaks, to hike into the wilderness, to create art and to find solace.

It’s hard to explain without sounding pretentious – and I’ve already failed on that score – but LOTL offer an escape hatch from a world bedevilled by strikes, Sunday nights, three bars on the fire and an electronic club where you have 200 friends and no-one to speak to.

They offer a lighthouse in the darkness - a beacon guiding us home.

Love at first sight might be rare, but love at first listen is rarer still.

When I first heard LOTL - ‘Keep on Trying’ as it happens - I was spellbound ... and then I heard ‘A Kingdom’ and I realised with a thump of the heart that I’d found what I had been missing without knowing it was absent.

Album ‘Gracious Tide, Take Me Home’ is a gorgeous, poignant, passionate, dreamy debut – brilliantly building on the bright promise of home-made EPs and whispers-of-mouth.

In an age where great music can slip by unnoticed in the vast oceanic expanse of the Internet, LOTL are drawing people in the old-fashioned way with their own tidal currents - incredible songs, mesmerising live shows, tongue-tied press (!) and evoactive videos.

Within 10 minutes of their gig at King Tut’s I had experienced two shivering shudders – the kind that start between your shoulder blades and then creep up your neck and wash over your head in a tingling wave.

Nope, it was neither drink nor fever-induced! It’s the kind of magical feeling you get once-a-gig if you’re lucky – the one that tells you that your brain and soul has overloaded. After four or five emotional supernovas on Tuesday night I realised I had to calm down or my wife was carrying me home.

LOTL produce the kind of music, atmosphere and show that encourages better reviewers than I to shower down adjectives like so much rain – making themselves look like fools in the process.

But hey, if you’re going to be a fool, be a fool for love.

This is transcendent, soul-stirring music for people with one eye on the stars and the other on the sea.

Combining guitars, violin, mandolin, piano, synths, glockenspiels, hope, dreams, magic and melancholy – as warm as a blazing hearth and as cold as the grave, this is music to soundtrack nights under the duvet while the wind rages outside.

Swirling songs offer folk, shimmering guitars, electronica, yearning violins, organic noise and cinematic sweeps which ebb and flow – building into glacial walls of sound before dying away to a fragile melody and whispered vocals.

The band freely swap instruments during the gig, clearly losing themselves in the music – alongside the audience.

Lead singer Hazel – also playing guitar – is the glowing heart of the band, but Paul, Ol, Adam, Sarah and Brendan are equally as magnetic and vital on stage.

By the second song, lead guitarist Paul – producer of all manner of bewitching noises and aching melodies – has broken one bow and is on to another (kindly provided by violinist Sarah).

‘Lungs Quicken’ sees Hazel breathe “there’s a war on TV” while imploring strings, electronic flutters and synths build to an urgent, heartfelt crescendo, finally subsiding into a haze of piano and a harmony of voices.

‘If I’ve been Unkind’ is Adam’s baby and the singer/vocalist is a nice counterpoint to Hazel’s fragile power, while ‘Blanket of Leaves’ is another haunting lullaby.

The creaking floor, looped percussion of ‘Keep on Trying’ ushers in Hazel, urging us to “remember whose side you’re on”, while the uplifting music and beats eddy and flow around her.

The stand-out for me though was ‘Ships in the Rain – inspired by the true story of a sailor who never made it home – a poignant shiver of a song which sees Hazel imagine herself adrift, promising “I’ll see you again, ships in the rain, till we meet again” as glacial, understated music slips by with a ghostly chorus.

‘A Kingdom’ is LOTL’s anthem - an enthralling, life-affirming fusion of driving beats, gorgeous melodies and soaring vocals. On record it’s stirring, live it’s nothing short of stunning.

‘You’re Almost There’ is also a delight, with synchronised handclaps from Hazel and Sarah, while ‘Tricks’ is an emphatic epiphany, “chasing shadows on the wall” and all doubt from our hearts.

If you’re looking for touchstones then you might mention Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire, even (depending on your age) shoegazers like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, but really LOTL are adrift on their own sea – offering heartfelt songs which move, comfort, excite and inspire.

Critics might say they’re too gorgeous, too gossamer, too fey - they’re cloth-eared fools. Don’t listen to them – listen to LOTL.

This isn’t soul music, it’s music of the soul. Too pretentious? Too bad – I love this band. And you will too – just one listen might be all it takes...

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Alan Muir