In 2021, subscription services continue to grow. Most familiar are the TV offerings: Netflix, Disney, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple+, HBO Max. But there are also some valuable audio services. We’ve already told you about subscription series from Lost Tribe Sound and Touch. Now Castles in Space gets into the action with the Castles in Space Subscription Library, available in digital and vinyl forms. The series has already released exclusive works by Concretism, The Home Current, Field Lines Cartographer, Kieran Mahon, Lo Five and more, and has just released a flagship album likely to convince those still on the fence.
Eight pounds a month is not so bad, especially for those who already purchase music on Bandcamp or iTunes. One simply has to be confident in the quality of the offerings; and Jilk‘s Welcome Lies is a winner. We believe this is the long-awaited album the band hinted at when they released last year’s stopgap EP Endless Rushing Waves of the Same, as the new set has been in the works for four years. There’s also a wee zine ~ typewritten, hand-cut and photocopied, like in the old days ~ offering a short story about The Order of the First Gathering, from which the album gets its occult leanings. There’s only one problem, but it’s an amusing one. The Bristol band just doesn’t have it in them to sound creepy. While the cover looks like The Blair Witch Project and the zine screams Lovecraft, the music ~ thankfully ~ is just as intricate and ebullient as we remember. Those who do want to be creeped out might investigate Everyday Dust‘s revisited red vinyl score for the Turkish horror film The Vale, also on Castles in Space but not part of the subscription series. The zine also includes the (brief) lyrics and song credits.
We begin with “Pause the Clocks for Women in Love,” which comes with a video ~ a great decision on the part of the label, as it’s the only public entry point. Static, a drone, a chime, some quick edits ~ but Kayla Painter has hopeful eyes and demonstrates a spirit of joy. Then the beautiful strings arrive, chased by gentle trombone. The dancer, images now layered, is transported to an ethereal realm. The music swells into an even thicker drone which eventually dissipates to restore the equilibrium.
Next up is the gorgeous, 13-minute “Lost and Gained,” which continues to expand on the template of long, developing pieces, heard earlier on “Become the Build” and the title track of last year’s EP. The track begins with dialogue about leaving a home, but soon becomes a percussive dance piece, filled with synth and horns. A mid-piece breakdown is followed by swift drums, slow strings, and a bright vibraphone that leads the listener out of the woods. This is probably a good time to mention the purpose of the zine: to emphasize the fact that these bright songs gestated from a dark period. The victory was hard-won, but the scars are barely evident.
After the sweetly pensive lullaby, “Kayla Asleep,” the band takes its time returning to a louder state. An acoustic guitar introduces “Slowly Coming Together,” whose title seems to refer to the modern era. Yes, we can put our demons and losses behind, and stride into a still-uncertain future. As the lyric reads, “there is no way out of this that begins in silence.” Now is the time to speak: not only to speak out against injustice and to speak the truth in love, but to speak to each other, to uplift and uphold. Jilk has always communicated this encouragement, more in timbre than in word, but it’s always helpful to have a vocal reminder. But then wow, that Chicago-esque brass! Finally, “Sad Talk, Happy Talk” combines a realistic title with a reflective mood. The listener is led to reframe the future in positive tones: the fears written down, but stored away, the sun just below the horizon, waiting to rise. (Richard Allen)