The Declining Winter “Home For Lost Souls” (Home Assembly Music)
It’s amazing how much we’re destined always to defer to our younger selves. If the teenage me hadn’t borrowed Hood’s “Sirens” 7” from a housemate in 1992, then in all likelihood we would never have been looking out for this record one hundred years (approx) later. Chance is a fine, but very fickle thing.
Right now, frankly we are the dispossessed of EC4; tired, ill, and disenchanted. So we draw positively *medicinal* succour from the rare beauty and sadness of the latest instalment of the Declining Winter’s delicately looped and layered pastorals, a record which revisits the gorgeous, pantheistic trail they and their musical forbears have already carved out in the wilds of Yorkshire: that familiar, breathy landscape of fading hills, forlorn valleys and disused post-mills, decorated by tales of rustic houses and cold houses and their haunted upper hallways. And home is – still - where it hurts: “the house that brings me down” as they trill on the desolate, perfectly-crafted title track.
As you might expect by now, “Home For Lost Souls” mixes dextrous, swirling post-rock instrumentals and samples with more fully-formed, if still wistful, percussion-driven ballads, whilst comfortingly familiar lyrical themes abound: Richard Adams sings of hillsides, leaves and fog formations nearly as often as Pete Astor once sang odes to precipitation. There are echoes throughout the album of the simple prettiness of last year’s Memory Drawings set, but darker, more sombre forces are also at play: instead of the Drawings’ elegant travelogue, these songs summon up doubt and hesitation in a swirl of autumnal hues.
And so it is that we’d happily traverse the coldest of moors for the secret behind compositions like magisterial opener “This Sadness Lacks”, the full-on jangle-folk of “The Sweet Sound of North” or the more muscular but equally adroit crowd-pleaser “Around The Winding Roads And Hills”. But the piece that this LP absolutely hangs on is the piano-driven “The Right True End”, its penultimate track and possibly the best song we’ve heard this year, which gradually unfurls itself over eight gorgeous minutes from stately near-stillness to a subtle crescendo of forward motion. The instant when the bassline eventually appears gives us the same magical shivers as some of our favourite Hood moments: this could almost be a refugee from “Outside Closer”.
There’s a bonus EP for good measure, a splendrous thing called “The Waning Mill Chronicles” which we believe to be available separately via the wonders of the modern internet. In addition to the cheery “The World Wide Ruin” and erstwhile bandcamp belter “The Year Of Forty”, it contains a couple of tracks which should for our money have found their way onto the LP proper - a longer, superior version of shimmering nr-instrumental “Summer Circuit”, and the easy cling of “On Station Rise”.
All of which may help to explain why - and despite all the other baggage he’s saddled me with over the years - sometimes I still want to high-five the teenage me.