If you know me, then you know I love the prog-folk band, Midlake, who hails from just down the path in Denton, TX. Unfortunately, the band has not released so much as a new single since it restructured and released their last album, Antiphon in 2013. There was a re-release of The Trials of Van Occupanther that included two previously unreleased tracks (see end of article to listen to one of them), but fans like me are in want of something substantive.
And in early November, I stumbled onto an announcement from Midlake themselves, “Paul Alexander’s solo debut as Two Medicine is out today via the great Bella Union!” Paul Alexander is the bassist for Midlake which, knowing this, my antennae went up looking for signals of what I’ve been hoping to find. And to my complete joy, here was a fresh album replete with the styles and nuance so clearly trademark sounds of both pre and post Tim Smith!
Track one, SF, opens with a little lo-fi pop style that only barely reflected days of Midlake past which made my heart sink just a little. But by the end of track one, you hear a transition to something quite familiar. The second track, Oblivion at 00:54 punches you square in the face and says, “THIS IS MIDLAKE! Now sit back, have a smoke, relax and enjoy the journey”. It is magical sorcery, mixing together misty harmonies with deeply warm layers of mysterious instruments.
So why did Paul create this album and what is it all about? Lucky for us, he has answered that.“I’d always wanted Midlake to experiment more with the arrangements, or to get more into psychedelic textures,” he says for his label, Bella Union. His exploration has led to unique, auditory soundscapes found on tracks like Oblivion, Gold, and the album’s namesake, Astropsychosis. The record feels lush and well connected at most points, but can suffer the listener to possible sleepiness as is the risk in this unique genre.
Alexander continues, “Two Medicine is a majestic place, without spoil. The land was ceded to the nation by the Blackfeet tribe. They were likely coerced into the deal, like most of the tribes who gave away their land. It is wild, humbling and probably collateral for the nation’s debt, where an inevitable capitulation looms. Beyond its geographical location, to me, the name Two Medicine represents a summation of this irony, whether created or inherited by the people of the United States.”
“I wanted to find out if I could write songs and if I could sing them – basically, whether or not I could make an album on my own”. Yes, Paul. Yes you can. And you did.
Astropsychosis officially released on 2 November 2018 on the Bella Union label. It is available streaming on Spotify and iTunes, CD, and limited release green vinyl.
Above, Two Medicine – Gold
Below, Midlake – The Fairest Way (previously unreleased track from The Trials of Van Occupanther)