Wednesday 6 March 2024

'Lift' by Last Ark Out

The latest release from Last Ark Out marks a welcome return for the Canadian collective.  With their debut full-length having been released back in 2017, the time since could perhaps be best chalked up to life having got in the way.

Frankly, we've all experienced a lot of life in the last seven years with events that have been indicative of such a drastically changing socio and political climate that slowly nudges us either towards global war or environmental collapse.  Much of Last Ark Out's 'Life' seems predicated upon this unnerving state of affairs but, at the same time, provides welcome respite from it all.

From Vancouver, Canada, the Last Ark Out quintet - comprised of guitarist Arthur Pascau Smith, bassist Jeff Gammon, multi-instrumentalist Justin Gorrie, keyboardist James Huumo and drummer Colin Parker - have captured listeners with their imaginative and creative take on contemporary jazz.  

The time in between releases has clearly served the quintet well as we're reintroduced to Last Ark Out through an exceptional record that brilliantly builds upon a framework as established through this album's predecessor 'Wake'.  One further notable change here is the inclusion of some high-calibre guest appearances, perhaps ironically made possible due to a certain global pandemic that taught us that life didn't need to stop just because we couldn't leave our houses.  

Perhaps these bold space explorations - as exemplified by the album's cover and the very notion of "lift" and elevation as the album's theme - have become about sheer escapism though? Certainly not a collective to allow themselves to be slowed down or hindered by something as mundane as a worldwide pandemic, the creation of this album as something of a response to that quarantine period could very well have proved to be the perfect remedy to those feelings of isolation and uncertainty that we all felt.

And while communication would ultimately hail the internet as our hero, allowing us to interact with friends and family - be them simply down the road or on the other side of the world - from behind our computer screens, it can also be hailed as something of a life line when it came to this album's creative process.  Through the power of remote collaboration, 'Lift' greatly benefits from the contributions of luminaries like Sasha Berliner, Sarah Thawer and Larnell Lewis amongst others who add infinite value to Last Ark Out's sensational musical message.

Through a series of spirited and ambitious pieces of music, the album's seven tracks burst with innovative ideas and concepts.  Last Ark Out's high-energy and grandiose soundscapes serve as a melting pot of musical styles from jazz-fusion to funk under an accessible world music aesthetic.

'Lift' is a wonderful release that is perhaps not as much a statement on current times but more a chronicle of them; again, as the cover suggests, should our planet have to endure so much that we're subsequently forced to flee in search of a new collective future then... could the last ark out turn the lights off when you leave?

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