The artists' collective that makes up Last Harbour knows how to pick musical influences. The gloomy chamber pop of The Host of Wild Creatures
calls to mind Aussie trio the Dirty Three, the theatrical goth stylings of Nick Cave and even Gastr del Sol.
The Host of Wild Creatures is a mostly acoustic affair and violin is prominent, though electric guitar makes occasional appearances, usually with quite a bit of tremolo. The album conveys a sense of place as strong as anything I've heard since Archer Prewitt's Gerroa Songs. Spare, airy production gives the dark music a creaky edge that suggests music made on cold porches. The songs are delivered as stories, almost exclusively of longing and love, and for the most part their atmospheric and gothic framework is sound.
The album's finest moment is the melodic droner "South-Facing Room". The track opens with a pulsing, cascading acoustic guitar riff that is soon paired with complementary tittering piano, poignant oboe and a low male vocal. The elements cycle continually, with oboe and violin gradually accenting the beautifully melodic narrative. You'll also want to hear "Mark Your Allegiance", a spookily bitter demand for fidelity featuring both male and female vocals and a loosely skinned floor tom.
Much like five years ago, when Belle and Sebastian were first heard on American shores, there is little information available about the band -- at least via the harried journalist's most traditional means (the Internet, nerdy friends). But that may only be a matter of time, as The Host of Wild Creatures is likely bring Last Harbour some well-deserved attention.