Named by band founder Ben Schneider after the Great Lake he used to visit as a child, Lord Huron have released their third album to date after a string of social media teases – but will Vide Noir meet expectations?
Rich, evocative and textured. These are three points you’d expect and want to find from a song aiming to paint a soundscape for you. These are three points that the opening track; “Lost in Time and Space” manages extremely well. With echoing tones full of reverb, and an eclectic mix of lapsteel guitar, timpanic drums and a circus-esque set of bells that roll across the track, the track gives a wide variety of spacey tones that fit the brief. Paired with founding member Ben Schneider’s lilting vocals, it’s off to a strong start.
Borrowing a similar lilting soundscape from this opening song comes “Wait by the River”, later in the album. Descending from being quite as spacey as the opening track comes this gentle ballad, trading the synthesised tone for soft brass and plumbing surprisingly low depths of bass at points that would challenge a good set of floor standing speakers. As Schneider’s gentle, flowing vocals sing of lost love, you feel yourself taken on another journey, just a more intimate one.
Stretched out over two songs, there’s also the indie-folk epic “Ancient Names” (Parts I and II). Using strange vibrato guitars, samples of distorted speech and discordant keys to continue weaving a sense of unease and mild panic throughout the duo of songs that stretches to a full eight minutes worth of track.
It’s worth noting at this point, whilst in the midst of a complex set of songs, that the songs benefit from the highest quality you can find it in to really open up the track. This reviewer was listening in 24bit/96khz on Qobuz – dropping the quality will definitely hide the level of detail that has clearly been painstakingly placed across the album. This folksy element of their work isn’t all Lord Huron are capable however, as Part II of “Ancient Names” shows so well. Still technically falling under the indie umbrella, they’ve got more focused and driven tracks throughout the album as well. They still keep a hint of their slightly darker neo-folk edge to keep them grounded with their signature sound.
“Secret of Life” is one such track, the synth and keys might still be present, but as opposed to gentle tones, they’re spikier more honed. The soft tones are picked up by reverb-laden backing vocals and the pace is kept at a rate more akin to indie rock by the cymbal-heavy drum line. The vocals and guitar feel more urgent as they power through the track, breaking up the slower, folkier tracks of the album.
Toeing a slightly treacherous line towards ‘going full indie’ is “The Balancer’s Eye”. The track moves towards a simplistic structure overall with a basic drum beat and melody throughout. By keeping just the right amount of an edge to their synth (and theremin) tones and guitar distortion, the band just about keeps the song leashed in their territory – but even outside of the aesthetic of the album, it’s still good.
The album does stagnate a little in its second half with a couple of tracks that clearly show why Lord Huron have had several tracks selected for use in TV shows. This isn’t a bad thing, as the tracks are still wonderfully engineered and are still high quality – they just feel more manufactured than created.
Breaking this ‘soundtrack’ set of songs however, comes the title track “Vide Noir”. With restrained, but powerful vocals and an extremely complex tapestry of a melody comprised of every guitar the band seem able to wield from guitar, keys, drums, samples and theremin – it’s a track that can be heard time and time again and still find something new.
However, with only one weak track on the album (here’s looking at you “Back From the Edge”), it is an incredibly solid and consistent effort that bears attention. To hear it in its full quality, why not book a demo at your local Richer Sounds and check it out on a fantastic hi-fi system?
Author: Steve, Chiswick Store