REVIEW: Departure Lounge — Transmeridia (LP)
Departure Lounge might just qualify as an early contender for comeback of the year, or even the decade, with their new record, Transmeridian. After laying dormant, for nearly 2 decades, Departure Lounge reunited in their native England, for a few shows. Reportedly, after the final show, they scurried into a studio, to record what would become, Transmeridian. Originally formed in 1998, and then absolving in 2002, the band recorded three albums within that 4 year period. Boasting an abundance of credentials and accolades, such as an inclusion on the soundtrack to, The Butterfly Effect, Departure Lounge is a band that absolutely must be on your radar.
Transmeridian is an approximate mix of 45 % instrumental, and 55 % traditional tracks, with vocals. It’s structured in such a way that is delightfully simple, yet surprisingly, underutilized. The result is a piece of work, with tremendous artistry, writing, and musicianship, and a pacing that enthralls, even if the tone and energy of the material, is frequently low. Many of the songs are piano based, giving the record an overall sensitivity, and beautiful gloom that unites any lingering polarities with the universal language of sadness. This is post alternative, that isn’t quite aloof enough to be art rock, but cynical enough to be shoegaze.
“Flying Home” is an instrumental piece, in which the rhythm section, completely owns the show. The piano over the top, ensures there is frosting with every bite, but the bass line by Jake Kyle is as hypnotic as you will hear. Lindsay Jamieson’s drumming sounds like it was transported straight out of a 1930’s caberet club, and minutely modernized, simply to minimize the shock value of such platinum musicianship. You will want to listen to this, because of the bass performance, alone.
“Antelope Winnebago Club,” which sounds like either an inside reference or a dedication to an actual establishment, opens the record. It features some of the most gorgeous classical piano playing on the entire record, which is a strong statement. This was an ideal track to set the tone for what is to come, as it’s open ended and contemplative, with just enough ambiguity to intrigue. If the follow up track gives you some REM vibes, well, there is a good reason for that. “Australia,” features none other than the legendary Peter Buck on Richenbacher 12 string.
Departure Lounge pulled off a major coup by recruiting one of the most iconic Indie Rock guitarists of all time, to lend his hand on “Australia.” The result is an Athens flavored alt rock jubilee, that’s just moody enough to get a perfect blend of nostalgia and modern dread. When you feel the edges/closer to your door/will you know/what your fight is for? Departure Lounge frontman, Tim Keegan does his part to soothe a raging soul, that’s still unclear of its intended target. The one two punch of the opening tracks on Transmeridian are an integral foreword of its inevitable greatness.
PURCHASE LINK: https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/departure-lounge/transmeridian
Personal tastes aside, Transmeridian likely won’t be a record that churns out an abundance of hit singles, as our soundtrack to the Summer of ’21. It’s moody, atmospheric, and introverted. However it’s also an astounding triumph of long term storytelling, and a testament to the power of true friendship. While the bands story isn’t rife with controversies and harrowing vicissitudes, they still capture the purest essence of existential despair in their music. And perhaps even more beautiful than the sounds Departure Lounge create on Transmeridian, is the pulsating rhythm of hope, contained within the journey.