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.
Released earlier this year, and 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. as a result, the material 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 five 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.
“Heart of a Hummingbird,” a hazy and 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.
Raymonde and Thomas recently enlisted Dan Carey to remix “Every Beat That Passed.” Retaining the jangling guitars and Ringdahl’s ethereal vocals, the Cary remix pairs those elements of the original with a brooding and uneasy production featuring arpeggiated synths and skittering beats. Interestingly, the remix is a dub-like and trippy take on the song that manages to emphasize the dreamy yet upbeat feel of the original.
“We are big fans of Dan Carey’s (who isn’t??) and when I was thinking of remixers, Dan, David Holmes and Adrian Sherwood were the first ones I wanted to approach as I felt their aesthetic would work best with some of these songs,” Lost Horizons’ Simone Raymonde says in press notes. “When Dan heard ‘Every Beat That Passed’, he mailed me back: ‘I’m obsessed with this song ! I really love it and I think I can do something really cool.’ He certainly did.”
Directed by Penelope Isles’ Jack Wolter, a.k.a. Wavyhead, the recently released video for the Dan Carey remix is full of feverish nostalgia as the video is split between footage of a decaying and abandoned amusement park and stock footage of smiling and happy folks at county fairs and amusement parks. In some way, the video is a bittersweet reminder of the things we’ve missed during the past year and some odd months of the COVID-19 pandemic. “For the accompanying film, listening to his version and Kavi’s words i had this vision in my head of dead souls riding a ferris wheel in an old decaying fairground and found some reels of this abandoned amusement park and for balance we mixed that in with some footage of happy smiling faces too from other funfairs,” Raymonde explains,. “Our main video collaborator again here is Jack from Penelope Isles.”