Following an extensive period involved in various musical faculties, both in the limelight and later behind the scenes, Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas had kerbed any individual creative output for 20 years.
But 2017’s Ojalá saw the two auteurs take up artistic reigns once again as they masterminded a charming record brimming with conceptual exploration and well-curated guest flourishes. If that wasn’t enough to prove the pair rediscovered an original spark, their 2021 follow up, In Quiet Moments will certainly prove their impact as a creative force remains firm.
Four years on, this record exists in a similarly conceptual dimension as its predecessor, but the musical genesis of the record occurred against the backdrop of increasing global unrest, and the death of Raymonde’s mother. These events spurred a cathartic process for the pair, ratified through the medium of artistic improvisation, and providing the musical bedrock to the sixteen-track duration. Themes of death and rebirth perhaps unsurprisingly pervade the sonic landscape, and following the blueprint of their debut, an interminable tasting menu of contemporary artists and new talent, briefed to explore this lyrically, imbue each with an individual and starkly intimate take on a deeply personal process.
Raymonde, who heads up indie label Bella Union, flexes his A&R acumen with their roster featuring heavily. Up and comers Penelope Isles shine with a statement piece of charming lo-fi dream-pop, that doesn’t sound unlike the Cocteau Twins if they’d necked a couple of protein shakes. Label mainstay, and Michigan man, John Grant provides the records feasibly most impressive, and indeed emotive moment. On "Cordelia", his buttery baritone set against a wispy and longing string accompaniment and translucently delicate soundscape is irrefutably stirring.
Less obvious additions are present too. Swedish musician and producer Kavi Kwai co-signs on "Every Beat That Past" bringing a Scandi-psych waltz flavouring with her impressive vocal brushstrokes, vintage piano sound, and psychedelic backing vocals that sound like Tune-Yards meets Goat. Appreciatively not covering The Cranberries, "Linger" sees Dublin musician Gemma Dunleavy emerge. A name previously more familiar with an R&B sound, she demonstrates an impressive vocal range as she yearns across a broody, trip-hop-tinged track.
Despite its tumultuous origins, In Quiet Moments is certainly a more accomplished record than its predecessor. An improvisational grounding and a strong lyrical brief have allowed the impressive list of co-signs to feel more pertinent, and in that, more able to successfully explore thematic material, both sonically and lyrically. More importantly, it’s an impressive and in certain moments, captivating listen and clocking in at an hour and fourteen minutes, it’s not a short one either.