Optimistic recluse Mike Gale and his Winchester/Oxford collective return with eclectic indie-alt-prog opus “Moon Lagoon”, their 4th album in 4 years.
Farm Music is a new label run from Farm Music studio in Oxfordshire, known for recording many acclaimed alternative albums since its inception in 1999 (alumni include Black Nielson, Goldrush, Danny & the Champions of the World, Electric Soft Parade, The Dreaming Spires, Ralfe Band & Co-pilgrim). ‘Still Life Hear Me’ by Black Nielson was the first of these back in 2000, so it seems fitting that the label’s first release should be from ex-Black Nielson frontman Mike Gale’s present combo, Co-pilgrim. This will be their fourth album since 2013 – Gale having released two solo albums and two album collaborations during an astonishingly fertile period – and quality control is as tight as ever.
Opening track ‘Turn It Around’ is a clear statement of intent. Gentle acoustic strums swept along by synth and then blown away by power-fuzz guitar; a different Co-pilgrim to the harmony-pop exponents of yore, grittier and more robust, informed by past travails (Gale’s recent loss of a parent and an often debilitating agoraphobia) yet resolute and optimistic in pursuit of the yearned-for mythical utopia of the ‘moon lagoon’.
Both the second song, ‘You’ll Look Pretty As a Picture When The Acid Rain Hits Ya’ and title track, ‘Moon Lagoon’ feed 90s American alt-rock through Co-pilgrim’s pop filter (check the almost Kim Deal-esque BVs). However, it is first single and album centre-piece ‘Cylindrical Fire Escapes’ which really showcases the ambition of the record; producer & multi-instrumentalist Joe Bennett (Dreaming Spires, Goldrush, Saint Etienne, Danny & the Champs) paints an ethereal soundscape of swirling synths and chiming guitars, driven by Andy Reaney’s rolling bass and bursts of pulsating rhythm from drummer/percussionist Mike Monaghan (Willie J Healey, Gaz Coombes, Man Without Country, Ralfe Band), and beautifully transcended at the finale by Claire Bennett’s soaring vocals. The atmospheric production is perfectly represented by visual artist Jussi Virkkumaa’s elegantly tessellating video which accompanies the track.
Side 2 is more introverted, the delicately heartstring-tugging ‘Thank My Stars”, preceding the baroque-pop of ‘I’m Not A Wallflower I’m The Wall’ which then opens out into the weary psychedelia of ‘Digging Holes In The Whites Of Your Eyes’. Gale’s lyrical dexterity is as usual to the fore, underscoring a sophistication developed through years of honing his craft as a songwriter and a keen ear for a memorable tune.
As the band meander away into the mythical Moon Lagoon on joyous horn-driven closer ‘Wouldn’t You Like To Dance?’, it would seem churlish not to join them..
1. Turn It Around
2. You’ll look pretty as a picture when the acid rain hits ya
3. Cylindrical Fire Escapes
4. Moon lagoon
5. Thank my stars
6. I’m not a wallflower, I’m the wall
7. Digging holes in the whites of your eyes
8. Wouldn’t you like to dance?