Between The Raft and music made under his own name, Phil Wilson has been responsible for a wealth of great music over the years. Music which tips its hat, in no small part, to those sonic explorers of the days of the independent label era, bands and artists which made labels such as Sarah, Postcard, Creation and particularly 4AD, such bastions of cool. Here, The Raft returns with a collection of 13 new songs and it is safe to say that they have even exceeded their collective benchmarks. (Although I probably say that a lot in their case, I haven’t checked but I wouldn’t be surprised.)
Clear Water is ambience personified, a gradual slow-burning build of swirling grace and evocative sonics, rising in tension as it goes and laced with the most gorgeous and otherworldly vocals as it heads towards its dramatic crescendo of conclusion. And then, with just enough of a pause to realise that you listened to that first track whilst holding your breath, There’s No Going Back reminds us that The Raft are just as at home with pop melodics and conventional structures as they are with the drift and haze of the opener.
And those first two songs, in a way, act as the extremes of the bands sound, a scale along which the marker between form and function, solidity and swirl, haze and harmony is repeatedly moved to create an ever-changing mix of elements.
Hold Back The Word is a Beatle-esque, beat-driven pop charmer, Heavy Metal Eyes is a riot of sonic texture, thin layers of music laid one on the other in such quantity that it builds an unexpected weight from gossamer and delicate sounds, Thinking About You is a blend of staccato bass pulses and sweet, hazy vocals and This is War is a cascade of jangling guitars and perfectly judged understatement.
It’s a fantastic album. One with hints of a more focused My Bloody Valentine, a more legible Cocteau Twins and Ride’s finer moments. But mainly it’s the sound of The Raft, not only that but the sound of the band hitting new, even more rarified, heights.