The Late Night Tales series began in 2001 and at the time of writing has born 25 releases, each guest programmed by a different musician or group with the purpose of reflecting their favourite ‘late night’ songs, meaning in this instance a relaxing quiet part of the night. For fans of a particular band, having a compilation hand-picked is a great way to gain a broader understanding of where an artist’s influences lie, and for the bands it is a way to share some of the music that they love, and, in some cases a chance to introduce some criminally unknown artists to a receptive audience.
For this latest edition in the series, Texas folk-rock heavyweights Midlake have stepped up as compilers, and Late Night Tales: Midlake logically sounds as if it could be a companion disc for the band’s most recent album, 2010’s The Courage of Others. That record represented a shift in focus for the Denton five-piece, who had grown, over the course of three albums, through influences of indie rock, West Coast folk/pop, psychedelia, until arriving at their current incarnation, one heavily steeped in the sound of the 1960s British folk revival. Consequently this record features many of the important artists of that musical movement, such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, as well as some lesser known artists such as Bob Carpenter, whose beautiful Silent Passage, opens the disc. Not being limited by constraints of chronology or location, with their Late Night Tales compilation Midlake have successfully tied together groups from the 60s, 70s and today, and have seamlessly mixed them together, the result being something like a smooth and well-informed DJ gigging at a folk-rock club.
While many of the artists selected are logical choices to sit side by side one another, one of the most interesting aspects of this disc is the way in which artists whom one would not normally associate together are seamlessly placed in the mix. For example; 1970’s American folk singer Jimmy Spheeris’ Esmaria segues into Copenhagen, by crooner Scott Walker, which in turn is followed by a new recording of Midlake themselves, in a folk reworking of Black Sabbath’s Am I Going Insane, which then transitions into mid-nineties Bjork, to Beach House (a cut from 2010’s Teen Dream ), and then back to the 1970s with Sandy Denny’s Carnival, all without breaking the smooth MOR feel that Midlake have created.It is a constant of all the Late Night Tales albums that the curating band supplies an exclusive cover version, and in this instance the Sabbath song is a particular highpoint. While the two bands may seem worlds apart in many ways, with Am I Going Insane, Midlake have managed to pay tribute to a much-loved group while maintaining their own folk-rock styling; the jangly acoustic guitars and vocalist Tim Smith’s soft tones working to create a beautiful yet slightly creepy rendition of a classic tune.
For fans of Midlake, or anyone interested in the soft MOR side of folk-rock, this is a great and well researched insight into a band whose focus is most often in the past, as well as being an opportunity to discover some lesser known artists. As the theme and title suggest, it is a record well suited to being played in your living room on a quiet night, although be warned that the constant mid-tempo and soft melodies may well ensure that the evening will come swiftly to a close, as you are beckoned effortlessly towards sleep.
Late Night Tales: Midlake is out now through Late Night Tales/Balance Music.
Distributed through EMI.
Originally published on FasterLouder on 28/04/2011. View original article.