The Shining Levels : Moonless Nights EPOutré Records : 20 September 2019
OST is the acronym for Original Soundtrack, signalling that the LP was inspired by the Benjamin Myers' book that it shares its title with.
Myers took as his source material the activities and fate of the 18th century Yorkshire criminal gang, the Cragg Valley Coiners. Sharing a childhood and background with the author, The Shining Levels used the book's material to shape a set of ethereal, folk-noir soundscapes; layering acoustic instruments, electronica and drifting vocals to arcane effect.
That sense of otherness comes in part from the diverse influences at play. The band's sound is a cord of early seventies folk twisted into sonic rope with post-punk, trip-hop, the elements of progressive rock worth preserving and a dry stone wall bound, rural gothic world-view.
This EP completes The Gallows Pole project with a three-part coda - a new composition, a single edit of Moonless Nights (a track taken from the album) and an instrumental reworking of the same piece; all written and recorded at the edge of England's bleak Northern Moors.
Of the three tracks, the re-imagining of Moonless Nights by Haiku Salut, an experimental electronic/folk trio from the Derbyshire Dales, stands out, with its haunting mood echoing that Mogwai found for their Les Revenants soundtrack. The impact of the original song's simple piano melody is heightened by the programmed rhythms that frame it.
Both the remaining pair of compositions are uncommonly compelling listens.
As its title might suggest, Slow Pass the Autumn Clouds wisps by dreamily, the song led to its gentle affect by Laura Smith's melancholy vocal; whilst the slow, considered piano of Moonless Nights underpins the frailty in Smith's voice as she expresses the emotional doubt found in the track's lyric.
On stage The Shining Levels can still and then fully absorb an audience with their music. The band's recent recordings, this EP and its preceding album, reflect that quiet, graceful intensity.
SHINING LEVELS I Moonless Nights EP