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The Arctic Flow
Lost You Long Ago Simon Heavisides , August 20th, 2021 08:24

Lost You Long Ago finds South Carolina's The Arctic Flow in a lovelorn, wistful mood, finds Simon Heavisides

Romantic longing: the emotional fallout may last a lifetime and can seep into your life in a way that makes it almost impossible to escape, reappearing years later as a deep yearning for beauty and meaning, or a manifestation of a profound desire to find a better world. Think the kind of doomed romance that is in the very fabric of those early Smiths songs. The Arctic Flow have it in spades, but minus the grit and the grime.

Brian Hancheck has been the one-man source of the Arctic Flow since 2008, all that time journeying to what must be his natural home at Sunday Records. In many senses he’s the archetypal Sunday artist, lamenting lost innocence and seeking refuge in a pure version of indie-pop where melody is never sacrificed and the song reigns supreme.

Drifting in on a soft synth, for example, ‘Rehearsals’ is a honeyed sliver of heart-pumping urgency, recalling Wild Nothing circa-Nocturne and with delicate hints of the Lotus Eaters softly ecstatic melancholy.

In terms of psychogeographical mood-altering experiences, is there anything more deathlessly heart-shattering than a seaside town in late summer/early autumn? Places where everyday really is like Sunday. ‘Boys Are’ begins with a steady, almost groovy drum beat, spare chords echoing in the spaces between, before diving into a tale of fading summers, a missed coastal rendezvous and an all too foreseeable dashing of hope, with Hancheck’s whispered vocals confiding and vainly imploring.

Hancheck certainly plays with the aquatic motifs – from band name, to lyrics, maybe even guitar sounds. He’s in good company, reminding you of Pennsylvania's wonderful indie-pop quartet Ocean Blue. It’s not hard to imagine some of these songs translating to the old world of college radio hits and even major label deals back in the day. Of course, that world is a distant dream. Maybe it never happened?

With a sharp intake of breath, a deep resonant bass and a soft jangle frame, ‘How Does it Feel’ is a tale of empty heat-haze towns and naked intimacy. But in the end chances are missed and outside life marches on, as of course it always will.

‘LYLA’ is shadowed by a similar feeling of being stalked by reality, but this isn’t a dark record by any means. Beauty sometimes comes from pain and crystalline sadness can be comforting in it’s own strange way. For clear evidence, try the one-two velvet glove punch that is the dreamlike instrumental ‘C’est la Fille de mes Rêves’,followed by the intense ecstatic Felt-esque strum of ‘Countryside’.

As Joni Mitchell wisely told us, “There is comfort in melancholy.” The clues are in plain sight, Estella Rosa’s totally apposite cover design provides the perfect wrapping for what lies within and quotes the pivotal line, “The summer was fading like your innocence.” The Arctic Flow dip into a deep well of inspiration on Lost You Long Ago. The results will stay with you long after the boys of summer are gone.