The members of the acclaimed duo Lost Horizons — Cocteau Twins‘ and Bella Union Records label head Simon Raymonde (bass. guitar, keys, production) and Dif Juz’s Richie Thomas (drums, keys, guitar) — each ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music with the release of their full-length debut together, 2017’s Ojaiá, (Spanish for “hopefully” or “God willing”). “These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world,” Thomas said in press notes at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music . . . And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!”
Since the release of Ojalá, the state of the world has gotten much worse — and much more dire. Our socioeconomic and political systems are slowly collapsing, exposing dangerous flaws. However, the fight for a fairer and better world continues as it has for generations; but one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas wrote and recorded a new album’s worth of material together, their highly-anticipated sophomore album In Quiet Moments.
Written and recorded during pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, In Quiet Moments‘ material is inspired by the sense of existential doom, fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the larger world — and deep heartache: Just as the duo were settling into the studio to craft the largely improvised, instrumental bedrock of the album’s material, Raymonde’s mother died.
As a response, Raymonde threw himself into his work as a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.” The duo forged ahead, crafting 16 instrumental tracks that they sent to an eclectic array of guest vocalists including Ural Thomas, Penelope Isles‘ Jack Wolter, The Hempolics Nubiya Brandon, Tim Smith, Gemma Dunleavy, the innocence mission’s Karen Peris, Horse Thief‘s Cameron Neal, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio‘s Dana Margolin, John Grant, Ballet School‘s Rosie Blair, Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (as her solo recording project KookieLou) and an impressive list of others.
When they sent the instrumental tracks to their then-prospective guest vocalists, Raymonde suggested a guided theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.” Roughly half of the album’s lyrics were written during the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns but as it turns out, Raymonde in particular, saw a sliver lining: people were forced to slow down and take careful stock of themselves and their lives. Interestingly, after having heard a lyric written by Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out on praise “in quiet moments,” and thought it would be a perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.”
Although generally centered around loss and heartbreak, the album’s material is imbued with a sense of hope. And as a result, the album subtly leans in the direction of rebirth more so than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” Thomas says. “But both albums have a great energy about them.” That shouldn’t be surprising as both Lost Horizons albums find the duo and their various collaborators on a journey through a dizzying area of moods and voices.
Now, over the course of the past year, I’ve written about four of In Quiet Moments‘ released singles:
- “Cordelia,” a lush track centered around atmospheric synths, gorgeous steel pedal guitar from David Rothon, elegant strings from Fiona Brice, and John Grant’s brooding vocals. The song is a meditation on the passing of time, the inevitable changing of the seasons — but with the tacit understanding and acceptance that all things in our world are transient.
- “One For Regret,” a dark and foreboding song centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming and Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin’s frantic vocals. While sonically, the song finds Raymonde and Thomas paying homage to the beloved sound and approach that won Raymonde accolades “One For Regret” is a meditation on the messiness of regret and loss, that acknowledges that regret and loss are a necessary part of life — and that the only way out is through.
- “Every Beat That Passed,” an old-timey waltz centered around shimmering and arpeggiated keys, jangling guitars and Kavi Kwai’s Julia Ringdahl ethereal vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, In Quiet Moments‘ third single sonically seemed indebted to Raymonde’s while being defiantly upbeat.
- “In Quiet Moments,” a shimmering and slow-burning, old school soul meets shoegaze number featuring twinkling keys, jazzy drumming, gently buzzing guitars and Ural Thomas’ easygoing soul crooning. The end result is a gorgeous and thoughtful song that evokes a complex and confusing array of emotions with a simplicity and profound earnestness that most contemporary songwriters lack.
In Quiet Moments‘ fifth and latest single “Heart of a Hummingbird” is a hazy yet cinematic bit of shoegaze centered around stuttering syncopated drumming, layers of shimmering guitars, twinkling keys and Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (a.k.a. KookieLou)’s ethereal and mesmerizing vocals singing lyrics that get at the confusing feelings of love and heartache can inspire — in particular, longing, desperation, uncertainty, acceptance and even a little bit of denial within a turn of a phrase.
“In 2018 we toured the UK with Penelope Isles opening up for us every night, and it was one of the most brilliant times I’ve had on tour. It reminded me of the Cocteau Twins / Dif Juz tour of 1984,” Lost Horizons say of In Quiet Moments’ fifth and latest single. “The friendships spawned and the love and respect that our bands showed to each other throughout was really special. There were 7 of us in the Lost Horizons live band and every one of us watched Penelope Isles each night, usually in awe. They did the same with us (probably without the in awe part) and to have such a brilliant support pushes you each night, in the best possible way.
“I knew from watching Jack (who sings on the first track on the lp ‘Halcyon’) and Lily so closely for so long, that I couldn’t think of two better people to be on this Lost Horizons lp. They were the first people I asked. Lily is a brilliant songwriter and I knew she would be a perfect collaborator for us! She seemed to have her ideas done so quickly after I sent her the music, and Jack recorded her soon after in our studio in Brighton, and I clearly remember opening the email when they sent the track to me, I literally blasted it in my studio so loud about 25 times and was in tears hearing what she’d done. I am very excited by what I am hearing of her KookieLou solo project.
“After I had written and recorded the basic tune with all the keys, basses and Richie had added the live drums, Paul Gregory (Lanterns On The Lake) added the glorious spacey guitars that take the track to its crescendo.”
“It was a real honour to be asked to collaborate with these two legends,” Penelope Isles’ and KookieLou’s Lily Wolter adds. “I have a lot of love for both Simon and Richie. I wrote these words in a pretty testing time. Loving someone is a real trip isn’t it? The meanings of the lyrics twist and turn between uncertainty and really just not wanting to let go of someone. When those beautiful new chords come in just after halfway through the song, I felt a release. I think that’s where the words travel from a place of confusion and heartache, to a place of pure honesty, acceptance and love. I want to thank Simon and Richie for making that happen at that point, encouraging me to see the glass half full at a time where it felt pretty empty.”
Shot in a gorgeously cinematic black and white, the recently released video for “Heart of a Hummingbird” follows a pensive and lonely Wolters walking along a rocky and windy shore, singing the song. Her immediate surroundings add an even more pensive and lonely quality to the proceedings.
Now, as you may recall In Quiet Moments was slated for a two part release through Bella Union. The first part was released late last year with the second part due February 26, 2021, along with the physical release of the entire album.