Midlake - For The Sake Of Bethel Woods CD/LP
Loss and hope, isolation and communion, the cessation and renewal of purpose. Timeless and salient, these themes echo throughout the fifth album from Midlake, their first since Antiphon in 2013.
Produced to layered, loving perfection by John Congleton, "For the Sake of Bethel Woods" is an album of immersive warmth and mystery from a band of ardent seekers, one of our generation’s finest: a band once feared lost themselves by fans, perhaps, but here revivified with freshness and constancy of intent.
A desire to commune with the past and connect with present, lived experience asserts itself from the opening of the album. A song that resonates with Midlake’s return and, perhaps, our lockdown era, Commune can also be read in terms of a deeper urge to re-engage with sometimes neglected ideals and beliefs. Bethel Woods sustains and develops that reconnection, evoking the steadfast and contemplative urgency of "The Trials of Van Occupanther" to back a lyric steeped in yearning for a paradisal time and place of hope and optimism. Soaring guitars and atmospheric noise effects extend a sonic scope further developed by Glistening, where arpeggios dance like light glancing off a lake. In just three songs, Midlake reintroduce themselves and reach out into fresh territory with a richly intuitive dynamism, honouring their past as a seedbed of possibility.
The psychedelic space-rock and sticky guitars of Exile shift the album to another plane, promising rich returns live, before Feast of Carrion splices apocalyptic imagery with lustrous harmonies: darkness and light, held in rarefied balance. A deeply personal turn follows on Noble, a song of tender innocence named after drummer McKenzie Smith’s infant son, born with a rare brain disorder called Semi-Lobar Holoprosencephaly. Pulido, who has been friends with McKenzie since they were 16 years old, kept McKenzie in mind for the lyrics. “I wrote the song from his perspective in a way, his expression to me of how he had been feeling towards his son. And then among the lament of his condition, it’s also embracing this child who has only joy. Noble doesn’t know that he has a condition, he just loves life. And smiles, and is so innocent, and perfect in so many ways.”
Elsewhere, the prog-enhanced funk-rock of Gone seeks to find hope in relationships that seem fragile. The ELO-esque Meanwhile… draws inspiration from what happened when Midlake paused after Antiphon, developing universal resonance as a song about the beautiful growths that can emerge from the cracks and gaps between things. Dawning draws on 1970s soft-rock stylings for another song searching for hope, its keyboard line reaching out towards an uncertain future while everything seems to collapse around it; The End reflects on the difficulties of partings. Finally, Of Desire meditates on letting go of what you can’t control and attending to what you can during uncertain times. “It’s about finding peace in that humbling,” says Pulido. “Sometimes it’s hard to have a large effect, so it’s just about shrinking that and saying, these are the things I can do and the rest is to be seen, to be known.”
The result is a powerful, warming expression of resolve and renewal for Midlake, opening up new futures for the band and honouring their storied history.
2. Bethel Woods
5. Feast of Carrion
10. The End
11. Of Desire
About this product: this release is available on CD and LP formats.