Album review: Outlander – Acts Of Harm

Birmingham shoegaze unit Outlander embrace melancholy moods on sombre second album…

Album review: Outlander – Acts Of Harm
Olly Thomas

While many of its aesthetic touchstones were established way back in the early ’90s, shoegaze continues to glacially evolve as it quietly asserts itself throughout 21st century music. Outlander are a case in point, sounding wholly contemporary even as they channel forebears such as Slowdive or Ride.

The most obvious point of difference between Acts Of Harm and these more traditional bands lies in the sense of dynamics learned from post-rock. Want No More and New Motive Power demonstrate these Brummies’ willingness to shift into higher gear, primarily through Jack Davis adjusting his drum settings to ‘wallop’.

Another obvious but effective cross-pollination embraced by Outlander is the influence of slowcore, the delicate, atmospheric subgenre exemplified by cult acts Codeine and Low. The first half of opener Bound explicitly hews to this melancholy template, expressly signalling to the listener that they’re in for a sombre experience with Acts Of Harm.

If such doom and gloom is indeed the order of the day, a certain autumnal beauty is also in evidence, gradually creeping up on repeated listens. Orbit, one of the album’s more concise tunes, is simply lovely; despite the absence of Ian Grant’s vocals, it somehow finds Outlander at their most accessible. Along with the closing II: Habituation, it invokes elegiac qualities that will connect with fans of Mogwai.

The 12-minute Lye Waste pulls all of this together, revelling in its extended running time to explore the band’s languid power. Those after the quick fixes of catchy hooks or killer riffs should be directed elsewhere, but patient devotees of the unhurried and introspective will find much to wallow in on Acts Of Harm.

Verdict: 3/5

For fans of: Slow Crush, NOTHING, Mogwai

Acts Of Harm is out now via Church Road

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