Harp’s first album is filled with somberness and tranquility, as it draws inspiration from the peaceful fields of Sussex to reflect on the pain of artistic loss, solitude, and a melancholic new romance. Drawing influence from William Blake, Herstmonceux Castle, and the Cure’s Faith, this may be the most desolate record from the Crawley band. Tim Smith and Kathi Zung create a desolate soundscape with echoes of 80s music, haunting vocals, and crisp, metallic drums. The overall effect is akin to a never-ending twilight.
Albion arrives a decade after Smith left the Texas folk-rock band Midlake, citing creative differences, and fans of his previous work will be gratified by the texture and detail here: synthesised strings, sirens and wheezy flutes lurk behind a misty layer of electric and acoustic guitar. Frustratingly, Smith’s grand, mournful voice is buried in the mix, his gravitas subdued by swathes of sound.
Most of the songs on the album have a slow, relaxed tempo. The first instrumental track takes the listener on a dreamy stroll through soothing shades of grey, while the single “I Am the Seed” ventures into a muddy field. The lyrics contain a metaphor about the artist’s struggle with perfectionism, as he croons with a muffled voice: “Everything is now unproductive, no longer yielding what it used to.”
Although Albion touches on powerful themes, there is a lack of sharpness and intensity. Silver Wings stands out as the only song on the album to challenge the somber mood, with Smith’s vocals sounding more confident and accompanied by stronger drumming from Zung and a more forceful acoustic strum. In the lyrics, Smith expresses a sense of new beginnings and potential for growth. Overall, this debut album by Harp lays the foundation for future potential and growth.
The album “Albion” will be available through Bella Union on December 1st.