Transmeridian is the first album from Departure Lounge (ex-Bella Union) in 19 years. It features all four original members plus a guest appearance from legendary REM guitarist, Peter Buck, one of many long-standing admirers of a band that embodied a lost age of reflective, experimental pop music coming to the fore at the turn of the Millennium alongside The Beta Band, Tunng, Boards Of Canada and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
The surprise new album, named after the defunct ‘golden age of aviation’ cargo airline for which singer/guitarist Tim Keegan’s dad was chief pilot, is released on Violette Records (formed by Michael Head (Shack, The Pale Fountains) and Matt Lockett ) on digital and vinyl formats on Fri 26 March 2021.
Originally scooped up by Simon Raymonde’s Bella Union label (labelmates with John Grant’s Czars) following the self-funded release of their debut album Out Of Here (1999), Departure Lounge’s sophomore outing, Too Late To Die Young (2002) was equally acclaimed and was honoured as the first ever Album Of The Week on the emergent BBC 6 Music. The band toured extensively in the UK, Europe and the US, including outings with The Go-Betweens, Morcheeba, Paul Heaton and Robyn Hitchcock, peers whose stylistic contrasts reflect the eclectic nature of Departure Lounge themselves.
Calling a halt in late 2002, citing family and geographical reasons (drummer Lindsay lives in Nashville, where their second album Jetlag Dreams (2001) was recorded), the four members remained firm friends and occasional collaborators, before reuniting in late 2019 for shows at The Green Door Store, Brighton and The Lexington, London, ostensibly to support the digital reissues of their first three cult-classic albums. With no plans other than to make some new music, the next day they set off for Middle Farm Studios, Devon.
Tim Keegan (vocals/guitar), Chris Anderson (lead guitars/keyboards/bass), Lindsay Jamieson(drums/keyboards) and Jake Kyle (bass/guitar/drums) channelled their evident joy at being back together into a complete 13-track album, largely conceived and recorded in just one 24-hour session in the company of studio owner and co-producer, Peter Miles. Ranging from soulful Americana to piano and mellotron-fuelled melancholia via pastoral musings on the nature of post-youth and eerie Spaghetti Western-tinged instrumentals, the next leg on the Departure Lounge journey is a multi-mood expression of pure artistic freedom.
The ‘leak’ of instrumental track Al Aire Libre (remixed by Parisian groovemeister Kid Loco) in October 2020 gave little away as to what fans could expect from a new Departure Lounge record, the track going gracefully everywhere and nowhere on a whistled Latino breeze. First single proper, Mercury In Retrograde, covered in the twinkling lights of a music box Casio CZ101 melody, turned the clock back - this was an old live favourite that never got past the studio door. Unfinished business brought to a happy conclusion, the single returned Keegan’s honest and distinctive lyrical voice back to British music at just the time listeners needed it.
It was an emotional thread, rather than one musical style, which gave the first three Departure Lounge albums their coherence. The songs told the story of the band. Transmeridian has the same sense of deeply connected musical energy. The purring, campfire acoustica of Timber and So Long bear no obvious resemblance to the ethereal, end-of-the-evening, piano-led interlude Paging Marco Polo, whilst the quasi-glam stomp of Mr Friendly would normally have no business sharing space with the strange, spacey Gurnard Pines (named after an abandoned holiday camp on the Isle Of Wight). Yet the journey’s ebb and flow, accelerations and pauses make for compelling, grown-up listening. Australia, showcasing the chiming Rickenbacker 12-string of Athens, GA’s finest guitar slinger, leaves no doubt that Departure Lounge’s pop sensibilities also remain solidly intact.
These four friends from different musical backgrounds came together originally with the stated aim of ‘creating music to soothe the troubled soul’. Citing their love of (and placing on record their debt to) influences including Robert Wyatt, Nick Drake, Talk Talk, Lou Reed, Arvo Pärt and Cocteau Twins, the band’s diversity of taste is reflected in the music they create.
Transmeridian is only the second full-length LP released by Violette Records, formed by Michael Head (Shack, The Pale Fountains) and Matt Lockett as a platform for Head’s work and developing into a respected independent label as well as multi-disciplinary event organiser, drawing in outsiders working in music, literature, art and design. The label continues to host live events whenever possible and recently initiated an ELP (halfway between and EP and an LP) vinyl series, putting out acclaimed releases by The Pistachio Kid and Studio Electrophonique.
1. Antelope Winnebago Club
4. Harvest Mood
5. Mercury In Retrograde
6. Al Aire Libre
7. Gurard Pines
8. Mr. Friendly
9. Paging Marco Polo
10. Frédéric’s Ghost
11. Don’t Be Afraid
12. Flying Home
13. So Long