tue 09/08/2022

Album: Midlake - For the Sake of Bethel Woods | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Midlake - For the Sake of Bethel Woods

Album: Midlake - For the Sake of Bethel Woods

Despite the Woodstock references, veteran US band embraces its own present

Midlake's 'For the Sake of Bethel Woods': watch out for a dash of Moody Blues

After a count in, the first lines of album opener "Commune" are “I’ve been away now far too long, lost and alone with no commune.” Fair enough. For the Sake of Bethel Woods is Midlake’s first album since 2013’s Antiphon.

The second track is “Bethel Woods”. Eric Pulido sings “I could get rid of it all for the sake of the Bethel Woods, to a time and place where peacefulness was stood.” Upstate New York’s Bethel Woods was the site of 1969’s Woodstock Festival. Midlake’s flute/keyboard player Jesse Chandler grew up in Bethel. The album’s sleeve image draws from a fleeting shot of his now-passed father as caught in the Woodstock film. So are Midlake tapping into their collective pasts as an inspiration?

Partly. During the post-Antiphon interregnum there were Pulido’s albums as BNQT and E.B. The Younger. Chandler worked with Mercury Rev, Susanne Sundfør and more. Guitarist Joey McClellan and drummer McKenzie Smith run the busy Redwood Studio in Midlake's base-town Denton, Texas (McClellan has recently recorded with Joana Serrat). Only keyboard player Eric Nichelson has kept his musical counsel. Consequent to all this, the Midlake of 2022 cannot be the Midlake of 2013.

Yet “Bethel Woods,” “Noble,” the ELO-esque “Meanwhile...” and the Mercury Rev-nodding album closer “Of Desire” could have been included on Antiphon. Each is wonderful, drifts and has a hard edge within the enveloping aural fog. Elsewhere, opening-out the stylistic envelope, there’s the skittery “Glistening”, the terrific “Exile” with its vague Ocean Rain Echo & The Bunnymen feel and “Feast of Carrion”, which edges towards the prog territory of The Moody Blues. While encompassing new flavours, the lovely For the Sake of Bethel Woods is nonetheless recognisably and resolutely a Midlake album. It’s a trip too. Psychedelic. But it’s not a consolidation. Instead, the reconstituted Midlake interpret strands of their past to embrace the present.

@MrKieronTyler

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