Making album can be testing for a band at the best of times, especially when it’s self-funded and released. Add in a four year gap since your well received debut and the pressure of keeping up that all important ‘momentum’ and things are getting a bit more tricky. Of course, all this would be surmountable if the band members were in the same place, the same country even. If these less than ideal circumstances had ultimately killed Come On Live Long, it would have been understandable.
As it is, In The Still finds them stronger than ever. The signs have been there over the past couple of years, with five of the album’s ten tracks having seen the light of day already. That fact diminishes the surprise factor a little, although grouping them together in this one body of work is definitely a benefit. Produced and mixed by the band’s Ken McCabe, the record is a glorious testament to wild ambition. Adding a selection of extra musicians and a choir to their already complex sound (the band do take their name from a Mogwai album after all), it still manages to engage with pin point focus.
No matter what crescendo of sound confronts you, attention is always drawn to the twin voices of Louise Gaffney and Robert Ardiff, who duet sweetly throughout. Their interaction is the key here, an emotional anchor no matter what the musical setting – of which there are many. Sounds crash and collide but never at the expense of the songwriting, serving the melodies as opposed to dominating them. There’s fragile beauty (‘Little Hedgehog’, ‘Trough’), epic beauty (‘Sum Of Its Parts’, ‘In The Still’) and, in ‘Bones To Break’, even a shot at pop – each perfectly pitched and presented by a band who have clearly pored over every detail. Come On Live Long have tackled a truly difficult second album and have emerged every bit as special as we always believed they were. A labour perhaps, but one to love.