Based in the northern English city of Manchester, Last Harbour play music with a dark, gothic heart, yet their songs are always beautiful and transcendent. After working with producer Richard Formby (Wild Beasts, Spacemen 3, Ghostpoet) on two previous albums, the band took time out after touring to build their own studio in 2013. They recorded Caul in that self-created space over a year between 2013 and '14 in a patient and detailed recording process that allowed time for experimentation and careful arrangement. Caul contains all of the band's trademark bruised laments and doom-filled rock, but there is also an added layer of raw, bleak experimentation that marries ideally and simultaneously with brighter, almost joyous moments. Most noticeably, "Guitar Neck" moves from a metronomic, semi-spoken verse to a richly orchestrated chorus with the FX-heavy vocal of K. Craig soaring above the pulsing instrumentation. There's another powerful moment in "Fracture/Fragment" when group vocals take center stage and the record immediately takes on a deeper and wider atmosphere, while elsewhere, "Before the Ritual" comes laced with vintage synths and organs. "The Deal" is a highlight, combining an insistent rhythm, menacing vocal, and obscured analog effects, and leading off a trilogy of tracks that form the album's second half, the negative image to the first half's positive; two sides of the same story. Closer "The Promise" is the band's most ambitious statement of their career so far. The epic 13-minute track is cinematic in scale, beginning with droning soundscapes and minimal notes that open out into a beautiful, melodic section with rhythm-led breakdowns and doo-wop backing vocals, before descending into a haunting, sparse, reverb-drenched coda. That song, and the album as a whole, make clear the progression on Caul from its predecessor Your Heart, It Carries the Sound. There is a new focus, a need to explore, a quest to push further into the void.