Some band’s stories, threaten to overshadow the quality of the music, itself. Occasionally, both a band’s journey and their work are of such novelty, that they begin to take on a sort of lore. Such as the case with, Departure Lounge. A band that formed and ultimately dissolved, over a four year period, from 1998 to 2002. During that time, they released three albums, but the reason we are here is to discuss the recent project that brought them back together, Transmeridian.
Departure Lounge was birthed in the UK, but most of them somehow found themselves in Nashville at one point in time. Though explicable, this migration is still somewhat difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, such strange trivialities synchronize perfectly with the most recent offerings from Departure Lounge. Transmeridian is a 13 song LP, that is as opaque as it is reconcilable. The album is 48% instrumental, which is proportionately and curiously, structured by turn.
“Harvest Mood” is a slightly less than subtle nod to Neil Young, of course. With a gorgeous piano line, that loops itself, but somehow never gets tired, this one feels addictive. The soft tempo jazz percussion, transports you to a basement club of your own imagination. You might feel like you’re watching a Gasper Noe film, on mute. It’s the type of song where beauty and torture collide, but merely produce a soft sigh.
Then we have “Timber,” which has to boast one of the best opening lyrics, I have heard in some time. Your house is made of timber/I know you wanted stone/Do you ever wonder/what’s it like to be alone/when you finally get there/what do you think you’ll see/will it be me. It’s a transparent verse, that still lends itself to infinite interpretation. “Timber,” can of course be perceived as an observation of an ungrateful subject. Throughout the entirety of Transmeridian, the songs that do contain lyrics, come with a choose your own lament, feature.
At a run time of 4:21, “Don’t Be Afraid” is surprisingly, the longest song on the record. For what feels like an arthouse project, there isn’t much in the way of indulgence on Transmeridian, which only serves to enhance the band’s aura of course. “Don’t Be Afraid,” is one of the most genuine and possibly intentionally tender moments on the album. We’re all made of water/we all come from love/we’ll never leave you, is one of the most emotionally arresting moments of the piece. This is an anthem for introverts with abandonment issues, all while being only a tweak away from identifying as a pop ballad.
Coming out of Transmeridian, you feel cleansed and spiritually disemboweled. You find yourself asking, where did this band come from, why did they go away, and what sort of divinely ordered principle, insisted they reemerge? I can’t remember feeling this motivated by confusion and silenced by introspection, since maybe Radiohead’s, Kid A, or Interpol’s, Antics. Save yourself the time, though, and don’t bother with any moot or meritless comparisons. Simply enjoy this record for the sleeper work of genius, that it is.
by Mark Ryan