From Athens, Georgia to Australia in one bound, the sound of legendary R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck’s twelve strings jangle their inimitable way through the latest single from Departure Lounge, reunited Bella Union-alumni ‘critics choice’ band, now signed to reputed UK indie Violette Records, who announced their first album for two decades at the end of 2020. The band’s singer and songwriter Tim Keegan sought out his friend of thirty years after noticing a distinct ‘Rickenbacker-shaped hole’ in the track during their brief, yet fruitful album sessions.
Of all the eventful incidents of a life in music well-lived, Keegan counts his longstanding friendship with Buck, initially via their mutual musical acquaintance, Robyn Hitchcock and more recently via a tiny festival in Arctic Norway with John Paul Jones, amongst the most enduring and valuable of happy accidents. As an R.E.M. devotee from the early-80s, Keegan subconsciously wrote the perfect foundation for Buck to layer streams of his distinctive fretwork over in Australia, a studio-crafted slice of urgent alt-rock with the Pan-American flavour of both Illinois’ Wilco and California’s Grandaddy. However, it was Buck’s contribution, according to Keegan, that brought the whole thing right back to Georgia.
Keegan says: “Listening to the playback of ‘Australia’ in the studio, I remember saying to the rest of the band: ‘what this song needs is Peter Buck’ (like the bicycle in the Quentin Blake book, ‘Mrs Armitage on Wheels’). I sent him the rough mix, he said he dug the song and went and played the perfect part on it. I am not ashamed to say that when I opened that email and first listened to his divine soloed track on headphones, I shed some tears of joy. Now it sounds like a great lost REM single from 1989 (with a different singer, sure) and it’s probably the best thing we’ve ever done.”
Listen to ‘Australia’ – BELOW:
Departure Lounge released three, acclaimed albums before their amicable split in 2002; Out Of Here (1999), Jetlag Dreams (2001) and Too Late To Die Young (2002). Their third album was honoured to be named the first ever Album Of The Week on the emergent BBC 6 Music. This band embodies a lost age of reflective, experimental pop music that flickered at the turn of the Millennium alongside The Beta Band, Tunng, Boards Of Canada and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Their return, featuring all four original members, was announced in November with the first single from the record, Mercury In Retrograde.
Transmeridian was largely conceived and recorded in just one 24-hour session in the Devon countryside and ranges from soulful Americana and mellotron-fuelled melancholia to pastoral musings on the nature of post-youth and eerie Spaghetti Western-tinged instrumentals. The album is named after the defunct ‘golden age of aviation’ cargo airline for which Keegan’s dad was chief pilot.
Departure Lounge is Tim Keegan (vocals/guitar), Chris Anderson (lead guitars/keyboards/bass), Lindsay Jamieson (drums/keyboards) and Jake Kyle (bass/guitar/drums).
Transmeridian is only the second full-length LP released by Violette Records, formed by Michael Head (Shack, The Pale Fountains) and Matt Lockett as a platform for Head’s work and developing into a respected independent label as well as multi-disciplinary event organiser, drawing in outsiders working in music, literature, art and design. The label continues to host live events whenever possible and recently initiated an ELP (halfway between and EP and an LP) vinyl series, putting out acclaimed releases by The Pistachio Kid and Studio Electrophonique.