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) — ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music with the 2017 release of their full-length debut, Ojaiá, (Spanish for “hopefully” or “God willing”) to critical praise. “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. Up until a few weeks ago, the possibility of a better world seemed increasingly dim. And yet, we’re forced to recognize that things are dire: our sociopolitical and economic systems are in the middle of a slow-burning collapse while entire portions of the globe have burned — with some still smoldering. Interestingly enough, one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been immediately fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas will be releasing a new album, In Quiet Moments. Written and recorded while the world was facing existential doom, anxiety, fear, heartache and tragedy, the album’s material is inspired by those same emotions in its creators’ personal lives. Just as Raymonde and Thomas were able to settle in and craft the largely improvised, instrumental bedrock of the new album’s material, the Bella Union Records label head, producer and musician’s mother died.
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 eventually forged ahead crafting 16 instrumental tracks that they eventually 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 guiding 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.”
During the writing and recording process, COVID-19 paralyzed and frightened the entire world. And while about half of the album’s lyrics were written in the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns, Raymonde in particular, saw a silver lining: people were slowing down and taking stock of their lives. Having heard a lyric written by Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out one phrase “in quiet moments” and thought it would be the perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.”
While generally centered around loss, the album’s material is more specifically tied to hope — and as a result, the album is more about rebirth 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 undulating across a dizzying array of moods and voices.
Last month I wrote about the lush album single “Cordelia.” Centered around atmospheric synths, some gorgeous steel pedal guitar from David Rothon, elegant strings from Fiona Brice, paired with John Grant’s layered and brooding vocals, “Cordelia” is a brooding meditation on the passing of time, the inevitable changing of seasons — but with the tacit understanding and acceptance that all things are transient.
In Quiet Moments‘ latest single “One For Regret” features Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin on what may arguably be the album’s darkest and most foreboding song. Centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming and Margolin’s frantic vocals, the song thematically is a meditation on the messiness of regret and loss — with the acknowledgment that regret and loss are part of the price of admission, and that the only way out of both is through. Sonically, the song finds Lost Horizons paying homage to the sound and approach that won Raymonde accolades but with a loose yet modern take.
“The process of collaborating on ‘One For Regret’ was really fun for me,” Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin says in press notes. “Simon sent me an instrumental to write lyrics and vocal melodies for, which isn’t a way I’ve written in the past and helped me think about songwriting in new ways. It was really cool to be a part of this, and I’m excited to share this song.”
Lost Horizon’s Simon Raymonde adds, “I was clearing out my cupboards earlier this year and found the old drum machine and pedals I used in some of my early Cocteau Twins days and dusted them down and started messing about with them. The sonics that came out of my improvisation felt like they represented both elements of my past and my future. I’d wanted to work with Dana since I heard Porridge Radio a few years ago and we met at The Great Escape here in Brighton and I thought she might like the vibe of this piece. Once Richie added real drums to it, it felt dark and exciting and Dana really got inside the skin of it all and captured those feelings I had with her intensity and words.”
Directed by Rachel Amy Winton, the recently released video for “One For Regret” follows Margolin on a trippy green-screened journey through hell, the skies, the cosmos and presumably her own consciousness.
In Quiet Moments is slated for for a two part release through Bella Union. The first part will be released on December 4, 2020. The second part will be released on February 26, 2021 with the physical release of the entire album.