[CHAMBER NOUVEAU] For the past decade-plus, the sprawling collective known as Loch Lomond has embedded itself in the lexicon of Portland music. Talented ringleader Ritchie Young has married indie pop to classical music in a subtle and inclusive way, while working with a revolving cast of contributors. Unlike fellow baroque-pop artists such as Beirut and Grizzly Bear, Loch Lomond has always come across as a bit more accessible and less self-absorbed. Lately, the band has kept busy with creative side projects ranging from a split EP with garage-rock champion Ty Segall to scoring tracks for the Laika film The Boxtrolls.
Loch Lomond's newest full-length, Pens From Spain, is an elegant examination of distance, set to shuffling percussion, chamber instrumentation and simple but intoxicating melodies. There is so much geography and reaching across shores at play on this record that one track, "From Here to Iceland," is little more than ambient whirs and Morse-code beeps. Much of the record, however, is denser. It starts full-bodied, with the stacked vocal harmonies, warm brass, icy keys and soft strings of opener "A String," but the spareness of tracks like "Seattle Denver Arms" is countered by the suave and snowballing nature of the title track. Young's gift of lyrical metaphor and personification shines throughout, and the fact that the record was partially recorded on the coast in Pacific City may contribute to its globe-trotting themes and fluid sound.
The record rarely gets stuck in its own candlelit baroqueness, as it does on the overly Old World "Nocturnal Me." The rest is lush and poetic—if a thoughtful gaze had a sound, Pens From Spain would be the equivalent of a long, dramatic stare at the ocean horizon.
SEE IT: Loch Lomond plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Small Million, on Friday, Sept. 9. 9 pm. $10. 21+.