On their latest album, The Hanging Stars transcend their well-earned reputation as masters of a captivating meld of blissful psychedelic folk and harmony-laden cosmic country. The fourth album from the accomplished London five-piece; recorded at Edwyn Collins’ Clashnarrow Studios in North-Eastern Scotland; scales fresh artistic heights, as they conjure a record more sonically varied, more contemporary, and less in awe of its influences.
With producer Sean Read (Soulsavers, Dexys) the band – singer and guitarist Richard Olson, bassist Sam Ferman, drummer Paulie Cobra, Patrick Ralla on guitars and keyboards, and the in-demand pedal steel player Joe Harvey-Whyte – embarked on a two-day drive to reach Helmsdale, and the unique studio sitting on a cliff overlooking the North Sea, on the same latitude as Gothenburg, and with the smell of Scandinavia on the air.
The reward was a fresh kind of recording experience, attaining, with Sean at the helm, a focus and discipline allowing them to fully realise the performances they aspired to. The bucolic ambience of the place was infectious, such that a loucheness inhabited the groove and they could relax into a freedom to follow where the music led, knowing Edwyn’s bespoke equipment would faithfully preserve it. Having determined on a far more pronounced emphasis on sonics, they were in just the right place to realise that.
A mesmeric aura possesses this sequence of ten songs such that ‘Ava’ can open the album with an unhurried smoulder of steel and string, so right the extent of its unfolding surprises; voice, guitars, and resolute drums may break the reverie but attention is snared. Through ‘Black Light Night’s harsh cold turkey pop and ‘Weep & Whisper’s gorgeous near-ambient soft-focus, to the celestial shoegaze wash of ‘Rainbows On Windows’ and the divine lo-fi wonkiness of ‘Red Autumn Leaf’ a sonic surety prevails. The vocal arrangements amaze, and the breadth of instrumental exploration inspires awe.
The Hanging Stars shine brighter than ever; as with Hollow Heart they’ve self-confidently seized the opportunity to birth a record that inhabits its own world and time, and insists it be heard.