Following immediately from the release of their EP ‘Replacements’, Last Harbour set out on a UK mini-tour and hit Manchester on the 24th October.
Having recently commissioned visual artist and photographer Andrew Brooks to produce live projections for the tour, the Manchester collective, not content to simply perform music, came bearing delicious visual gifts.
Anyone familiar with their album will know that its production was personal, hands-on and site-specific. Having been recorded in a church – to benefit creatively from the acoustics and atmosphere of the place – the album comes complete with a screen-printed illustration of the exact location of each band member during the recording process.
It is not surprising therefore that when Last Harbour played Islington Mill – a place steeped in industrial history, and more recently in art and performance – they explored every inch of what is possible in the place to deliver a theatrical and beautifully brooding show that enraptured everyone.
Opening with the album’s title track, the previously chatty crowd soon became engrossed as the drama of the sound took over. Crawling heavily – like a hundred condemned medieval prisoners stomping miserably to their fate – ‘Your Heart, It Carries The Sound’ has a drum-rolling rhythm that resonates forebodingly about the room. Singer Kevin Craig, often compared to both Nick Cave and Ian Curtis, has a faultlessly pensive baritone that is more haunting than both. You feel as though his ruminative tone could be resounding from any time in history.
Equally, as a song-writing collective, Last Harbour deliver lines that would be comfortable within chamber music or the most smock-wearing of folk. Rendered as they are within the delectably dark, film-noir context of Last Harbour, you find yourself wonderfully losing all sense of sonic time and place.
The instrument-happy six-piece spread across every inch of the back-wall stage; backed by a huge display of fantastically explosive and often very delicate video art. This had the overall effect of transforming the venue into the interior of an heirloomed trinket box – full of treasures, secrets and memories – within which everybody was ensconced.
Kevin Craig, guitarist David Armes and Jack of all four-string trades James Youngjohns (viola, mandola among others) all indulged in an impressive array of vintage analogue and digital gadgetry. Serious attention was paid to tweaking out deliciously rusty, fibre optic sounds to their very last frequency, and the crowd was dedicated to listen. Layered on top of traditional drum, bass and piano, played intricately by Howard Jones, Michael Doward and Gina Murphy respectively, Last Harbour have a musical formula that sits just outside of time, by uniquely including all that it has to sonically offer.
Murphy also provides regular vocal backing that elegantly counter-balance Craig’s. Her voice adding a bright yet equally reflective audio element and an intriguing twist to the stories told through the lyrics.
The band, particularly Kevin Craig, have an introspective and almost method-acting dedication to their own performance that is nothing short of enrapturing. Introducing a couple of completely absorbing new songs, Last Harbour demonstrated that they are not a band to sit in creative comfort, rather they continue to push their own artistic and stylistic boundaries. The audience, while sharing in this experience, were completely transported by it.
Words and photos by Anne Louise Kershaw