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Wilderness David Stubbs , February 15th, 2017 14:02

Produced by Graham Sutton formerly of avant legends Bark Psychosis, Coldharbourstore’s Wilderness has been an astonishing 12 years in its gestation and eventual release. Revolving around the nucleus of instrumentalists David Read and Michael McCabe, the band had laid down the rhythmical foundations for the title track of this album as early as 2005, with a drummer and vocalist who have long since departed. Two years later, Lucy Castro answered an ad in NME, and was recruited on the strength of a single vocal line sung over the phone before it was inadvertently cut off.

Castro’s voice, like the album as a whole, reminds of more expansive times, of possibilities tentatively explored but then brutally curtailed by the hegemony of Britpop and retro lad-rock, which drove so much ambitious fare either deep underground or away altogether. There’s a windowpane clarity about her singing - neither needlessly overwrought and gymnastically emotive, nor irritatingly insipid. As for the instrumental side, the luminous, ambitiously colourful influence of Sutton is everywhere as Coldharbourstores take up where Bark Psychosis left off. Having initially worked on the album some ten years ago, he became so in demand as a producer that these tracks (versions of which I first heard in the late Noughties) were put on what seemed like permanent hold until he and the group were able to complete what they’d started.

It has been worth the wait. It’s not as if music’s timeline moves in anything but circles today, so the delay doesn’t present an issue. This is the music of yesternow.

Opener 'Sightless' sets the tone - none of the sleepiness that sometimes came with the neo-psychedelic haze of shoegaze. This is all “eyes wide open”, musically and lyrically, full of romantic expectancy and the possibility of imminent sunbursts. This sense of lucidity is exacerbated by Scott Heim’s spoken word section, somewhere between a rap and a diary reading. On 'The Antidote', the sequencers swell, the guitars squall as the emotional weather threatens to turn. 'Cost You Dear' is more bitter chocolate fare as its title implies, but still limpid and glistening. “Marker” is still more caustic but even as the mood turns, the colours still flow, the layers build, there’s pleasure in the pain.

'Kissing' is among the album’s standouts, from its clattering, claptrap rhythm sections, like someone knocking frantically at the door while a couple are in a clinch, to the eerie, bass male vocals which shadow Castro’s like a stalker or a persistent memory. Then there is 'Broken & Bad'’s bullrush shimmer of guitars, as vivid a reminder of the beauty of Bark Psychosis’s beauty as the album offers, a last moment of anxiety as Castro casts her gaze upward on busy skies. 'Genie', however, is a happy ending; “your eyes are alive with love”, a rainbow of instrumentation as Castro’s vocals ascend to the sort of contentment enjoyed by the likes of Lamb and Björk.

A follow up before 2029 would be most welcome.