Currently celebrating 20 years piloting his revered record label Bella Union, Simon Raymonde has scaled another personal peak, a new collaboration with drummer Richie Thomas. They’re called Lost Horizons, and their stunning debut album, Ojalá, released 3rd November on Bella Union, is a rare sighting of two gifted musicians who, for different reasons, have been largely absent from music-making for the last 20 years. Yet the record is proof of a telepathic relationship through music, established when the pair first became collaborators and friends in the eighties.
Ojalá also incorporates a heady cast of guest singers. Some are signed to Bella Union, such as Marissa Nadler, former Midlake frontman Tim Smith, Cameron Neal (Horse Thief), others are long-time favourites of Raymonde’s (Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit and Ghostpoet), or newer discoveries (Beth Cannon, Hilang Child, Gemma Dunleavy and Phil McDonnell). And then there is the incomparable Karen Peris of The Innocence Mission, one of Raymonde’s most beloved artists, in her first collaboration outside of The Innocence Mission and solo recordings.
Together, the Lost Horizons ensemble has created an hour of exquisite, expansive and diverse spellcasting, from facets of soul (‘Bones’, featuring Cannon, and ‘Reckless’, featuring Ghostpoet) to dreamier invocations like ‘She Led Me Away’ (featuring Smith) and Ojalá’s lengthiest trip, ‘The Engine’ (featuring Hilang Child). There’s the odd louder, faster detour, like ‘Life Inside A Paradox’ (featuring Neal, with Sharon Van Etten on backing vocals), but the dominant mood is a deep, rich melancholia.
Given the role of guest singers, the common ground that Raymonde and Thomas shared, and the love of melancholia, it’s not surprising that Ojalá has something in common with This Mortal Coil – underlined further by the plan to add a bonus disc of ambient recordings that evolved into solo piano pieces, similarly transformed into haunting song, “as a quieter contrast to the band pieces,” says Raymonde. “I love the tracks I’m not playing on just as much,” says Thomas, referring to ‘Frenzy, Fear’ (featuring Hilang Child), ‘Winter’s Approaching’ (featuring Nadler) and ‘Stampede’ (featuring Lanterns On The Lake’s Hazel Wilde). “They’re super-emotional. And to be involved somehow in that music made it even more powerful.”
Indeed, Ojalá was made for its core duo’s need to make music, and to create something beautiful, and meaningful, in these dark times. It’s why the record is named after the Spanish for “hopefully” (or “God willing”).
LTD COL 2LP: Clear and orange vinyl
LTD ZOETROPE 2LP: Details to follow
2. The Places We’ve Been
3. Amber Sky
6. She Led Me Away
7. Frenzy, Fear
8. The Tide
9. I Saw The Days Go By
10. Give Your Heart Away
11. Score The Sky
12. Life Inside A Paradox
13. The Engine
14. Winter’s Approaching
Bella Union LTD COL 2LP: BELLA700V LTD ZOETROPE 2LP: BELLA700VX