# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Last Harbour - Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark

  by John Clarkson

published: 5 / 3 / 2008

Last Harbour - Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark
Label: Little Red Rabbit Records
Format: CD


Electrifying and turbulent-sounding orchestral third album from Manchester-based seven-piece collective Last Harbour

Manchester-based seven-piece collective Last Harbour have always been a group of contrasts, and their third and latest album, ‘Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark’, is an enticing brew of contradictions, being at once in sound both grand and gentle, and harsh and tender. More orchestral in sound than their previous records, and recorded on ancient analogue equipment which have heightened further Last Harbour’s brooding, often spooky sense of atmospherics, ‘Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark’ employs over twenty different instruments, merging David Armes’ guitar and loops, Michael Doward’s bass and Huw McPherson’s drums with, amongst other instrumentation, a theremin, a piano, a harmonium, a pedal and lap steel, strings and a bowed xylophone. It is a record of immense, often breathtaking turbulence, and one in which the listener quickly learns to expect the unexpected, never quite sure what is going to happen next, even a few notes away. The music, an uncoiling rush of tensions, swoops from quiet to loud and vice versa, starting with Armes’ hushed plucks of guitar or Gina Murphy’s and multi-instrumentalist James Youngjohns’ swabs of piano, and building ever up into a glorious stormy waltz or cacophony of noise before dropping suddenly away and then eventually bucking upwards once more. Instruments cut in and out. Sarah Kemp’s volcanic eruptions of violin, and those of other string instrumentation including a viola and a cello, burst in and away. Youngjohns’ shimmering pedal steel and producer Richard Formby’s fluttering bowed xylophone dominate ‘The Revenger’s Waltz’, while the Gina Murphy-sung rollicking country number, ‘Out Back’, is suddenly interrupted by an ethereal-sounding brief instrumental of lush, tingling guitar licks and shakers. Kevin Craig has always been a fine vocalist, but the rich timbre of his baritone and theatrical, but yet never overcooked vocals and his lyrics, which he has described thematically on this album as being a modern ‘Play for Today’, have both never been bettered. The latter suit the music perfectly, telling of a succession of fraught lives in the balance and on the edge, and are, like the music, captivating. Craig has the neat knack of being able to catch often in a line or a stanza, and, with a real sense of pathos and occasional dark humour, the emotional turmoil and desperation of his characters’ situations. The central character on the pensive opening track, ‘Broken Nail’, mulls over a relationship which, despite being four years finished, he can still not put behind him, the memory of a fingernail his lover snapped on the night their romance died serving as a symbol for him of the abruptness in his mind with which it finished (“I’ll never forgive because I never forgot anything about that night.”). The protagonists of the blood-chilling and sinister ‘The Revenger’s Waltz’ and the discordant ‘The Accident’, on which Craig sings in part through a distorter, are both similarly obsessed, the former with thoughts on vengeance on a lost love (“I hate that you’re happy and that you’ve found someone/I curse the eyes of the man that you’re now thinking of”) and the latter with guilt at the near fatality he caused by taking his eyes off the road seconds before crashing his car (“You’re drifting, drifting away from me”). The couple on the slow burning, piano-led ‘The Further Field’, upon which Craig and Murphy’s vocals weave in and away from each other, meanwhile find that barriers have grown between them after the miscarriage of their baby (“It wouldn’t hurt the two of us to talk about it, but we don’t”). With its surging crescendos and in-an-instant dramatic lulls, Last Harbour have created a masterwork, which captures exactly the tortured infatuations and anguishes of Craig’s anti-heroes, their brief, intoxicating highs and terrible, crushing lows. ’Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark’ makes electrifying listening, and strikes hard into the gut and soul.

Track Listing:-
1 Broken Nail
2 Saint Luminous Bride
3 Science Song
4 The Revenger's Waltz
5 Out Back
6 The Accident
7 No-One Ever Said
8 The Further Field
9 Fires

Label Links:-

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit


Interview (2012)
Last Harbour - Interview
In our fourth interview with them, John Clarkson talks to Kev Craig, the front man with Manchester alternative rock collective Last Harbour, who will be playing our next Pennyblackmusic Bands' Night', about their new album, 'Your Heart, It Carries the Sound', which was recorded in a church
Interview (2010)
Interview (2008)
Interview (2002)


Volo (2010)
Unpredictable and haunting fourth album from Manchester-based alt. rockers, Last Harbour
Saint Luminous Bride (2009)
My Knowen Foe EP (2008)
Hold Fast, Pioneer (2005)
Host Of Wild Creatures (2002)

most viewed articles

most viewed reviews

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors