Tomorrow We Sail - The Shadows

by Steve Rhodes Rating:8 Release Date:2018-03-02
Tomorrow We Sail - The Shadows
Tomorrow We Sail - The Shadows

It's been three years since Leeds' orchestral-leaning ensemble Tomorrow We Sail released their debut album For Those Who Caught The Sun In Flight, a striking and rather ambitious release that pushed the 80-minute mark, feeling a little bloated, whilst often struggling to get out of first gear. At less than half that length, their sophomore album The Shadows has maintained the band's yearning eclecticism whilst trimming the excesses, to produce a much improved full-length that mines ambient and ethereal soundscapes with impeccable grandeur.

Solemnity is the order of the day from the off as 'Side By Side' showcases emotionally wrenching chords, as a beautiful viola, minor key piano and understated percussion leads the way. Tim Hay's vocals appear, like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci dabbling in their Barafundle phase, rural and medieval, with a hint of prog, especially in the clarity and expressiveness of the words. The lyrics are reassuring “green trumps the grey, that's where we'll rest and feel safe”, with the whole band joining in when the instrumentation retreats, very much like A Silver Mt Zion, with just atmospheric keys and echoed guitar for company before the heavy and forceful chords reappear. A triumphant track than nods to Gregor Samsa and knocks on the door of Yndi Halda, but with more of a rustic, English feel, and one of the strongest openers to an album I've heard in a very long time.

'Home Fires' is more laid-back, though not exactly restful, as a Rhodes piano leads the way and Ella Blake takes the vocal lead, with a classic Folk feel of Sandy Denny meets a restrained Kate Bush. Feeling akin to a slowed-down Mogwai, but with added introspection and a more natural construction, it is a enchanting track, that offers a different angle, even if it doesn't quite build on the momentum of the glorious opener.

The title track instantly shares DNA with fellow Leeds' natives ILikeTrains in atmosphere and cohesiveness. The oceans of delay on guitars and the combination of the drums and glockenspiel hints at Sigur Ros, as Ella's vocal appears, more delicate than previous, with the whole ensemble nodding towards a stripped-down Chasms. A lovely descending chord pattern is cemented at the heart of the song, resulting in a hypnotic track that buries deep into your senses.

The sanguine 'Winifred' is a unhurried track as Tim and Ella combine on vocals backed simply by a sombre piano at the pace and tone of a ticking grandfather clock. A nice stopgap that whilst won't break down barriers shows how minimalism can be just as important as full-on instrumentation.

An eerie and ominous atmosphere greets 'The Ghost of John Maynard Keynes' as droning and creaking background noises and atonal melodies demand the listener's attention. Tim's bellowing vocal appears, not a million miles from Jamie Sutherland from Broken Records, before jolting chords and heavy percussion enter the fray. Lyrics such as “the scapegoat changes but the story stays the same” are fairly politically charged, which is perhaps unsurprising given the song's title.

'To Sleep' is more tender, with a sampled decayed vocal haunting the track at irregular moments and nice buried guitar notes for company, allowing Ella's vocal to flourish, with just a piano as the main support. Angela Chan's viola adds further depth as Ella's vocals feel more heartfelt than anywhere else on the track, producing an emotional track that remains uplifting throughout

Droning strings are joined by keys on closing number 'The Golden Elevator', which along with the album opener is the highlight of the record. Melancholic as always but with a more natural feel, Tim's vocals are less forced and benefit the track immensely, especially when they almost break into a higher range, and are even stronger when complemented by Ella's exquisite backing. The song builds up patiently, without drifting into predictable crescendo, with nice regular changes of tempo and direction throughout. Only at the very end is the full instrumentation unleashed and that is a temporary moment that doesn't drown or dominate the track.

Building on their promising beginnings Tomorrow We Sail have refined their approach and have more than surpassed themselves in producing an achingly beautiful record full of bewitching melodies. The perfect accompaniment to cold, darkened evenings, as the light descends below the horizon.

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