February 16, 2024

S’funny – and really quite wonderful – how, despite my long years as a muso, there are still so many bands out there that I’ve never heard of but it turns out they’ve been around for quite a while. Midas Fall are a Scottish alt/post-rock outfit that have been creating atmospheric post-rock since 2010 (I think), and here I am, listening afresh and agog! After a six year hiatus since their last effort, Cold Waves Divide Us comes out on 8th March 2024 worldwide courtesy of Monotreme Records, It’s their fifth full-length production, and I have to say I’m hooked – it’s a simply wonderful collection of what to me is top-class Ambient rock – but that ‘tag’ doesn’t begin to do them justice.

The core of the band is founding members Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn, who have been joined by Michael Hamilton since their 2018 Prog Magazine Awards ‘Limelight Award’ winning album, Evaporate. Michael plays bass, Elizabeth is the singer/guitarist and (I guess) lead song-writer while Rowan takes the lead on guitar parts. All three take turns on synths, piano and drums – they’re a multi-talented trio!

Michael, Elizabeth, Rowan

As a band, Midas Fall have over the years carved out a distinctive and captivating sound, combining elements of electronica, post-rock and alternative rock with progressive and gothic undertones to create taut, shimmering soundscapes led by Elizabeth’s hauntingly melancholic vocals. Their style has led them to being especially revered in mainland Europe, regularly touring and doing festivals from Belgium through Germany to Greece and Bulgaria.

Elizabeth tells us that Cold Waves Divide Us is a heavier and bigger experience than the last album, keeping the atmospheric strings and 80’s synths of Evaporate but with heavier added layers to more closely replicate their live sound. Sounds intriguing?

 Ten tracks are offered on the album, beginning with the excellently titled ‘In the Morning We’ll Be Someone Else’. A delicate synthy intro, echoing production, ethereal vocals all quickly combine to set out the band’s musical stall, this is rich, fascinatingly layered music that immediately immersed me in an ambient mood that is simultaneously dark but pastoral, captivating and mesmeric.

I Am Wrong follows, confirming what is clearly their signature blend of cavernous, fleeting, haunting sound-surround. It thunders along on pounding rhythmic drums swirling around heavy swathes of low and delicate melodic highs, it’s absorbing stuff, I especially like the slightly distorted, slightly fuzzed guitar tones. It comes from a pretty dark place, lyrically describing the feeling of being trapped in a situation with someone where you feel never good enough, constantly criticised; self-doubt, insecurity and anger creeping in…

Salt reeks of regret, a sparse, echoing arrangement providing a backdrop to Elizabeth’s bleakly gorgeous voice. The simplicity of the gradually building guitar line is striking as a counterpoint. In This Avalanche lightens the mood a little, in essence a simple ballad, slightly more up-beat, smoothly pastoral feel to this, it’s almost a tender love song! Still a tad world-weary but accepting and secure together? Point of Diminishing Return dives back into electronica, and does it so well – how three musicians create such a luscious, rich tapestry of sound beats me! Essentially an instrumental, it swirls and swoops around you with synths and beautifully cavernous percussion.  

Monsters is the second single from the album, and you can see the video below. It’s a more contemplative track, with a delicate intro giving way to wonderfully syncopated guitar and drums. Lyrically the song is about the monsters in our heads, those intrusive, anxiety-ridden thoughts that unexpectedly surface, questioning whether we ever truly have full control of ourselves….and it’s at this point that it hits me – Midas Fall give me an eery sense of this band being a “female-led, rocky, synth-inspired, alt-rock” slant on a Nick Drake song-set? – it just hits the same spot somehow, and makes me wonder what on earth Nick would have made of the world we currently live in, bless ‘im….Suffice to say, the track is darkly great.

Atrophy is almost baroque in its sumptuous swirls of synth, a slow-paced spacey work-out that lulls you dreamily into a state of dark serenity. Elizabeth’s voice is just outstandingly strong here.

The title track was released as the first single off the album, married to a simply stunning dark sci-fi video from Sharon Ritossa and Gabriele Ottino of Riot Studio. The music builds slowly as Elizabeth’s voice floats gracefully above the growing force beneath it, against a racing visual landscape of “nature, but not quite as we know it”. According to Ottino, “we aimed to create a sort of dystopian jungle – where nature is genetically altered by the virus of our civilization, so that instead of nature killing off humans and plants, it opts to adapt and modify itself to exist within the bodies and limbs of those who have survived Earth’s catastrophes. No one perishes, no one lives as they did before; everything undergoes transformation”. The video is a truly captivating piece of visual art that superbly reflects the music.

Little Wooden Boxes is another sparse yet enveloping number, these are true crafts-folk at work. Lyrically it’s still pretty bleak, I do hope Elizabeth somehow gets to exorcise some of these darker thoughts! It’s another great example of creative post-rock whereby the melodies, the twists and turns of pace and mood, are sonically captured in an assured production. And the album’s closer, Mute, continues this powerful yet restrained, bleakly dark yet somehow uplifting, essentially simple mix of heavenly voice, dramatic percussion and bass, threatening guitar work, eerily swooping synths – I might have used the word ‘captivating’ more than a few times here!

Cold Waves Divide Us sees Midas Fall at their most confidently visceral, each song moving beautifully between quiet and loud, gentle and crushing. A cinematic mix of electronica-infused post-rock, Elizabeth’s serene voice contrasting with an underlying sense of dark unease. it’s easy to see how this Edinburgh-formed band has won over so many fans from the post-rock scene – me for one!

Cold Waves Divide Us will be released digitally, as well as on CD and a limited pressing of 500 LPs on 180 g vinyl (150 black, 350 clear with orange and black splatter). The first 50 physical pre-orders from the Monotreme Records web shop will also receive a limited edition printed A5 booklet with images of handwritten lyrics drafts and drawings from Elizabeth Heaton.