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, iff not impossible,. And yet, we recognize that even with that small bit of hope, things are dire: our socioeconomic and political systems are collapsing before our eyes, exposing hidden gaps and flaws. While we’re hopefully working towards a better, much more fairer world, one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been immediately fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas will be releasing a new album’s worth of together, 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 surrounding them, as well as the same emotions and sensations of their own personal lives: 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 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.”
About half of the album’s lyrics were written in the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns, but interestingly enough, 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.
Over the past couple of months I’ve written about two of the album’s previously 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,” In Quiet Moments’ third and latest single is a gorgeous and old-timey-like waltz centered round shimmering and arpeggiated keys, jangling guitars and the soaring and achingly ethereal vocals of Kavi Kwai’s creative mastermind, Julia Ringdahl. Interestingly, much like its immediate predecessor, “Every Beat That Passed” seems sonically indebted to Raymonde’s work with Cocteau Twins — but while arguably being one of In Quiet Moment’s more defiantly upbeat and hopeful tracks.
“Richie came up with the piano part for this and it grabbed my attention immediately. That ‘waltz’ rhythm is pretty much in my DNA from my Cocteaus days, and the other instrumentation just kinda flowed out in a rush of emotion and memory,” Raymonde says in press notes. “Discovering Kavi Kwai was akin to roaming the beaches of Bognor with a defective metal detector and discovering a whopping blue diamond. She is from Sweden and on hearing her music, I vowed to create a track especially for her. When I received her vocal back, I had that unusual experience of simultaneously laughing and crying at the same time. Laughing because I couldn’t believe how incredible it was, and crying because she turned our tune into a beautifully sad song which really moved me. Still does to be honest.”
“The feeling that came to me when I first heard the instrumental version was that it felt very hopeful,” Kavi Kwai’s Julia Ringdahl explains. “Hope always has an undertone of something heavy or dark – otherwise we wouldn’t need it. When I wrote the melodies and the lyrics I stayed in that mode, I wanted to capture the combination of dark and light.”
Written, directed, and edited by Jonathan Caouette, the recently released video for “Every Beat That Passed” begins with a bleak and dire landscape that sees renewal and human hope and joy through some trippy, almost supernatural looking phenomenon.
Caoutte also directed the video for “Cordelia,” and as he says of “Every Beat That Passed:” “Through the work I did on the videos, I began feeling that ‘Cordelia’ represented memory, loss, melancholy, and how inescapable impermanence is and that ‘Every Beat that Passed’ represented the antithesis of those ideas: the promise of resetting and renewal, and the hope that not all is lost, even under the hardest of circumstances. So, even though they have two distinct feelings they also work together as two different perspectives, yin and yang etc.”