The recent news that Goldheart Assembly were due to release a new album was a startling reminder of just how long its been since their previous effort, 2010’s debut Wolves & Thieves. It also emphasises how much the band have disappeared from view, after ‘King Of Rome’ had garnered a decent amount of radio coverage and that first album warmed a few hearts.
The fact that their return is not rivaling Boards Of Canada and MBV for message board histrionics underlines the fact that this is not a comeback that's exactly being looked toward with fanfare and fevered anticipation. A nice line in soaring harmonies and Wilco-esque rock is not what gets you noticed in 2013.
So, it’s a little disheartening when Goldheart Assembly’s new album opens with what can best be described as a bit of dicking about. Wolves & Thieves began with ‘King Of Rome’ a statement of intent lashed to the side of a swooping, dynamic chorus. ‘Long Distance Song Effects’, the title track that opens this album of the same name, is basically a minute and a half of radio fuzz and half heard voices over the top of some organ noodling. Pulses do not race.
Thankfully, that’s soon replaced by ‘Billy in the Lowground’, a much more typical Goldheart Assembly song that builds over a prodding, propulsive string stab before bursting into a fuzzed-up chorus. A sigh of relief that the band are still producing this kind of stuff, but also a disapproving look regarding that damp squib of an album opener.
Next up is possibly Goldheart Assembly’s most beautiful track, ‘Harvest In The Snow’, which was actually released as a free download a couple of Christmasses ago. Delivering a wonderfully wintery feel in the depths of summer is a tough trick to pull off, but the splashes of harp and gentle acoustics that dance around this track’s chorus swoop could make you think of mulled wine and chunky jumpers in any weather.
Challenging it in the loveliness category has to be ‘Stephanie and the Ferris Wheel’, a big piano ballad built on another infectious chorus and an unexpected left turn in the last 30 seconds towards a galloping crescendo.
The rest of Long Distance Song Effects continues in pretty much the same vein, with the bigger, ballsier tracks such as ‘The Idiot’ and ‘Into Desperate Arms’ sitting alongside more introspective numbers like ‘Behind This Lonely Sun’ and the closing ‘Bird On A Chain’, with some beautiful strings and horns flowing throughout, bringing to mind people like Ed Harcourt, or US counterparts such as Dr. Dog.
Overall, it’s fair to say that Long Distance Song Effects is pretty much what you’d expect if you were one of the few who heard Goldheart Assembly’s debut album, without some of the instant hit that record delivered, but with plenty of depth to be found once you’ve peered beneath the skin. Let’s hope that they don’t disappear for another three years after this one, and that the band can find a decent and devoted following prepared to give this one a little bit of time and attention – just as long as they’re not put off by that opener.
7Aaron Lavery's Score