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Post-Metal Existentialists LATITUDES Premieres and Discusses Upcoming Fourth LP, Part Island

Posted by on March 28, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Latitudes Band (Photo: Latitudes)

Formed in 2006, Hertfordshire, UK quintet Latitudes—Mike Davies (drums), Jon Lyon (bass), Adam Symonds (vocals/synth/guitar), Adam Crowley (guitar), and Tim Blyth (guitar/synth)—are masters of merging calming and chaotic atmospheres. Having played with laudable acts like Baroness and Pallbearer while earning praise from outlets such as Metal Hammer, Echoes and Dust, Rock Sound, and Kerrang! over the years, they’ve deservedly risen to the top of the post-metal echelon. On their upcoming fourth studio outing, Part Island, the group perfects their instrumental formula while delving further than ever into complementary vocal tapestries, resulting in a truly visceral and cathartic journey.

Aptly self-described as “a dynamic collection [that’s] unashamedly brim-filled with sadness and regret,” Part Island fuses elements of black metal, folk, shoegaze, and more into a continuously transformative existential and introspective trip. Specifically, opener “Underlie” initially finds Symonds’ falsetto laments cascading over a soberingly sparse isle of sorrowful piano chords, acoustic guitar arpeggios, and dissonant soundscapes. From there, the record takes you through perpetually alternating glimpses of internal heaven and hell—with consistently seamless and ingenious dynamic shifts—until the lengthy closing title track acts as a tour-de-force reflection of all that came before it. It’s a masterful venture.

Don’t just take our word for it, though; stream Part Island in its entirety below and see if it doesn’t mesmerize you as well. If it does, you can pre-order it here ahead of its April 5th release. Also, be sure to check out our quick chat with Symonds and Lyon about the album below.

Did any specific artists inspire the record? How about anything outside of music?

Adam Symonds: I didn’t feel there were particular musical inspirations for the record. We had a clear idea of what we wanted to create and how we would go about achieving this. It was more a case of exploring how we had written music in the past and how we could adapt this process to an album centered firmly around vocals. Personally, my inspiration came from the written word and the nature writings of Nan Shepherd. I sent Jon a line from The Living Mountain very early on in the process of forming our lyrical themes.

Jon Lyon: We listen to a shedload of music from multiple genres, all of which seems to have fed their way into the record to some degree. This ranges from folk-rooted songwriters like Nick Drake, Jackson C Frank, and Gravenhurst to outsider black metal like Fluisteraars, Ash Borer, and Oranssi Pazuzu. Also, the contemporary doom of YOB and Pallbearer, plus kosmische synth, classic shoegaze, Nick Cave, and Bark Psychosis. I am always inspired by the writings of the late theorist Mark Fisher, and reading The Old Ways and Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane placed a much-needed reconnection with nature at the heart of this record. The dire current political situation in the UK (and globally) has given us seemingly endless inspiration too.

Along those lines, what themes/subjects are explored? What do you hope readers take away from the LP?

Symonds: Separation, isolation, regret, displacement, disappointment, and unknowing. This is explored through the imagery of land and sea, alongside an island mentality both literal and spiritual. Whilst the subject matter is fairly dark and steeped in sadness, I would hope the lyrics are loose enough for listeners to finds their own story within the songs.

Favorite track(s)?

Symonds: "Part Island."  It was the first song written for the record. It felt like the testing ground for whether we could make the album work (not just musically but as a new way of composing within the band, too).

Lyon: "Dovestone." The lyrics are based upon the true-life story of a search to uncover the identity of an elderly man with no identification who took himself to the top of a mountain in the UK’s Peak District in order to kill himself. I think we caught the atmosphere just right and as a lover of "the dark stuff," this track stands out.

How did the writing and recording of this album differ from the previous ones?

Symonds: Much of the record was written around vocals on acoustic guitar before finishing as a full band. This gave us the opportunity to consider the vocals foremost rather than adding them to completed musical compositions, as we have in the past. The mindset was to write a vocal album yet also open up the songs with more space, dynamics, and hopefully, more emotion. Stripping back to a simpler song structure and straightforward time signature meant we could add subtle layers of complexity that reveal themselves over multiple listens.

It was also a logistical move. Due to our varying time constraints, we had to start writing in a different way. I had a lot of music written (predominately simple ideas which may have been a guitar part and a vocal melody or a slightly more realised verse/chorus idea) which I would then develop with Jon. Tim would then come in and create the riffs that would start to shape these into a "Latitudes" song. Once it was working, we’d email a rough recording over and Mike would write the drums and Adam C. guitar. This meant by the time we rehearsed as a full band and everything was mapped, we knew where the song would go and could finish the composition fairly rapidly.

What led to the decision to focus more on vocals?

Symonds: The most successful songs on our previous records are those that include vocals. I suppose we took this to a logical conclusion, but also it felt like the right time, following on from our previous record (2016's Old Sunlight), which seemed like the peak of our instrumental heaviness and complexity. I think we all wanted to write a record that was slightly more approachable, in which vocals would have the space to sit comfortably throughout.

How do the title and cover art reflect the music and lyrics?

Lyon: The title Part Island relates to a number of lyrical concerns, including:

  • being raised on an island and holding some of that isolationist mentality with you;
  • the collapse of a personal "island," (i.e. the dissolution of a family unit created in opposition to, and as an escape from, the world);
  • the current political situation in the UK, Brexit, and leaving the EU (how our island has been ideologically ‘parted’ by the referendum vote and decision);
  • a phrase coined by 17th-century English metaphysical poet John Donne—“No man is an island”—i.e. humans do badly when isolated from others and need to be part of a community to thrive. The album title is a comment that every man is "part island": part solitary, part inaccessible, and part remote.

The cover art and album design is by Dehn Sora, whose visual work with bands such as Blut Aus Nord, Amenra, Deathspell Omega, and Ulver has stood out to us over the years. He took the lyrics and conceptual ideas we sent him and produced something atmospherically perfect.

The album is very dynamic in terms of heavy vs. light moments. It’s striking and quite powerful. To what extent are those shifts (especially on the opener and closer) a natural result of the writing vs. a conscious decision to, say, add more acoustic guitar, light vocals, and atmosphere?

Symonds: These songs ("Underlie" and "Part Island") were written on acoustic guitar and formed the core of the record from the moment we started writing. The shifts in dynamics are very deliberate and considered and were clearly mapped out from the start. We intended each song to feel like a journey, as well as the course of the album to feel like a complete piece with each song placed intentionally to accentuate the dynamics and flow.

That's interesting. Thanks, guys!

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