The Clientele return in September with Music for the Age of Miracles, their first release of new music since 2010’s Minotaur EP and their first album on Tapete Records.
After The Clientele released Minotaur, Alasdair MacLean, singer and principal songwriter for the band, made two wonderful albums with Lupe Núñez-Fernández as Amor de Días, issued a Clientele best-of called Alone and Unreal, oversaw reissues of Suburban Light and Strange Geometry, and played shows solo or as part of Amor de Días or The Clientele. He and Lupe have also been raising a family, so the prospect of a new Clientele record seemed to be diminishing.
It seems fitting, then, that a chance meeting with a ghost from the past/future is what led to Music for the Age of Miracles, the first album of new Clientele songs in seven years.
MacLean and Anthony Harmer knew one another and played music together in the mid-1990s but had lost touch. “I had often wondered what had happened to Anthony since,” writes MacLean. “It turned out—he told me—he’d studied the Santoor, an Iranian version of the dulcimer, and over decades become a virtuoso, at least by my standards. He suggested we have a jam together. Ant and I now lived three streets away from each other, it turned out. He started to arrange my songs. He let me write and sing them, and he came up with ideas for how they should sound. This carried on until we had an album. I called up James and Mark and asked them if they wanted to make another Clientele record. They did, and this is it.”
So, a new collaboration with an old acquaintance led to a new Clientele album. On Music for the Age of Miracles, Harmer joins the line-up of MacLean, James Hornsey (bass), and Mark Keen (drums, piano, percussion), contributing string and brass arrangements as well as guitars, vocals, keyboards, saz and, yes, Santoor.
There’s something rapturous about the ways in which tracks on side one such as “Falling Asleep” (featuring the Santoor) and the exquisite “Everything You See Tonight Is Different From Itself” stretch out in choral harmony and rhythmic syncopation. Leon Beckenham’s trumpet solo on the latter is a highlight of the record, as is the way the words “ballerina, breathe” reappear at the three-minute mark. Similarly, Keen’s beautifully evocative interludes “Lyra in April,” “Lyra in October,” and “North Circular Days,” the last of these featuring a recording of the wind captured outside the late filmmaker Derek Jarman’s house in Dungeness on the Kent coast, mean this album sounds subtly but significantly different from previous ones.
Birth, rebirth, the ghost in the trees, something on the edge of sight, the faces we love, childhood, parenthood, the dance of our days; music for the age of miracles, indeed.