Review and Photography by John Bentley.

Tonight is a step into the unknown to see a new band, Lost Horizons, performing songs from their debut album ‘Ojalá’ (meaning ‘hopefully’ in Spanish). I’m prompted to check them out as Lost Horizons is a return to playing music for a musical hero, Simon Raymonde, formerly of The Cocteau Twins and the man behind the revered Bella Union record label. Lost Horizons is a joint project with drummer Richie Thomas, formerly of 1980s post-punk band Dif Juz and a guy with an impressive musical pedigree, having toured with iconic acts such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Felt, as well as The Cocteau Twins.

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17. Simon Raymonde, Helen Ganya Brown and Richie Thomas pose after the show.

The evening does not start well for me, what with torrential rain and queuing traffic on the way into Manchester. It’s also my first trip to the Soup Kitchen venue, so I’m relying on a bit of research on Street View before setting off and hoping that the sat nav does its job. As it works out, a crucial street has been closed-off to traffic and no one told my sat nav. Anyway, eventually I find somewhere to park and ask a bloke with a North American accent the way to Soup Kitchen. Having jokingly ascertained that I mean the Soup Kitchen and not a soup kitchen he points me in the right direction. It turns out to be a rather nice little eating and drinking place with a somewhat utilitarian cellar for gigs underneath.

The support act is Dog in the Snow, the moniker of Brighton-based Helen Ganya Brown, who experiments with existential-driven lyrics and layers of off-kilter sounds, accompanying herself with guitar and electronic keyboard effects. It’s fairly dark stuff, with a nod to latter-day Scott Walker. Helen has a superb voice that runs counter to, but complements, the doomy electronic instrumentation. Most of the songs are taken from her recent album ‘Consume Me’. Dog in the Snow is worth the price of admission alone. Helen reappears later as a member of Lost Horizons.

Dog in the Snow, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17

The idea for Lost Horizons can be traced back to the 1980s and Simon Raymonde’s involvement with the This Mortal Coil albums, masterminded by 4AD records supremo Ivo Watts-Russell. To quote 4AD, “This Mortal Coil was not a band, but a unique collaboration of musicians recording in various permutations….the idea was to allow artists the creative freedom to record material outside of the realm of what was expected of them”. The result was soulful, dreamy, gothic melancholia, a musical vein which Simon and Richie are again drawn to on the new album.

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17

In common with those This Mortal Coil albums, ‘Ojalá’ relies on a string of guest vocalists including Marissa Nadler, Ghostpoet and former Midlake frontman Tim Smith. How does this translate to a live show without the guests? The answer is generally very well. For a start two of the album’s guest vocalists, Beth Cannon and Ed Riman (of Hilang Child) are also part of the live band and (along with Helen Ganya Brown) handle their own original songs from album, as well as those originally sung by the other guest singers. Making up the rest of the tour band tonight are bassist Asya Fairchild and, on keyboards, Chris Anderson, of Bella Union band Departure Lounge.

All of the music played is taken from the ‘Ojalá’ album. They begin with some of the more haunting, yearning songs, like ‘The Places We’ve Been’, which is a little like the dreamy sound of The Sundays. After the more melancholy songs there’s an opportunity for Beth Cannon to gyrate and act the soul diva on more upbeat numbers like ‘Asphyxia’, so there’s plenty of diversity in delivery through the evening. Ed Riman plays keyboards, but emerges to sing on several songs, including the epic ‘The Engine’, which he also performed on the original album. Like Cannon, he can really let rip. Perhaps least successful is ‘Reckless’, an ‘Ojalá’ highlight, but done live it’s a song where it is impossible to replicate the original inimical vocals of Ghostpoet.

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17. Richie Thomas.

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17

The main set ends dramatically with ‘Bones’ another album key-track, where Cannon gets to reprise her soulful performance from ‘Ojalá’. The encore is the rather beautiful ‘She Led Me Away’, originally sung on the album to orchestral backing by ex-Midlake man Tim Smith. With Ed Riman taking the lead vocals and with a piano-led backing the band pulls the song off with sensitivity and distinction.

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17

Lost Horizons, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21-11-17. Simon Raymonde thanks the audience after the gig.

Throughout the evening Simon Raymonde plays his guitar in the shadows at the back of the stage, while the spectacular psychedelic light show illuminates the singers at the front. He briefly takes the mike at the end to thank the audience. Simon and Richie have clearly enjoyed a return to playing live after many years away from the stage. The fact that they’ve been off the radar for so long no doubt explains the small size of the audience, but as word spreads about the quality of the new album and the splendour of the band’s dynamic live shows this will no doubt change.

After the gig Simon, Richie and Helen chat to fans and sign copies of their albums. It’s worth pointing out that the ‘Ojalá’ double-vinyl album is itself a splendid artifact, with cut-out panels revealing the glorious photographic artwork on the inner record sleeves – and of course there are different coloured vinyl records within!

I Saw the Days Go By
Give Your Heart Away
The Places We’ve Been
Amber Sky
Score the Sky
The Engine
Life Inside a Paradox

She Led Me Away

One Response to “Lost Horizons + Dog in the Snow @ Soup Kitchen, Manchester – 21st November 2017”

  1. Derek Batemn Says:

    An almost spiritual experience in Glasgow’s O2 I cried twice amazing!

Leave a Reply