Loss and hope, isolation and communion, the cessation and renewal of purpose. These themes echo throughout For The Sake Of Bethel Woods, the first new album from Midlake since 2013’s Antiphon.
Reuniting with intense focus after a long hiatus, the result is For The Sake Of Bethel Woods, an album with tremendous thematic and sonic reach. Produced to layered, loving perfection, it’s a record full of immersive warmth and mystery from a band of ardent seekers.
Produced, engineered, and mixed by Grammy Award-winner John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky, Sharon Van Etten) at Elmwood Recording Studio in Dallas, TX, For The Sake Of Bethel Woods marks Midlake’s fifth full-length release and first time recording with an outside producer. The result is an album of immersive warmth and mystery from a band once feared lost by fans, but here revived with freshness and constancy of intent.
A desire to commune with the past and connect with the present, lived experience asserts itself throughout songs such as “Bethel Woods,” named for the site of 1969’s original 37-acre Woodstock festival field, and the sky-scraping space-rock of “Exile.”
That same resonant spirit is further embodied by the instantly memorable cover art, designed by pro skateboarder/filmmaker/visual artist Brian Lotti and featuring a striking photo of keyboardist/flautist Jesse Chandler’s father, who tragically passed away in 2018.
“At age 16 my father and his friend hitchhiked from Ridgewood, NJ to the Woodstock festival in 1969,” says Chandler. “This image of him with his hand to his face appears in the 1970 Woodstock documentary, as the camera pans across the crowd during John Sebastian’s set. My father actually ended up moving to Woodstock, NY – where I grew up – in 1981. For me, the picture of that kid, my dad, forever frozen in time, encapsulates what it means to be in the throes of impressionable and fleeting youth, and all that the magic of music, peace, love, and communion bring to it, whether one knows it at the time or not. (I think he knew it).”
A powerful, warming expression of resolve and renewal, For The Sake Of Bethel Woods opens new futures for Midlake while still honoring their now storied history. Formed in the small town of Denton, TX, the band delivered an auspicious debut with 2004’s Bamnan And Slivercork, followed two years later by the wondrous and much beloved The Trials Of Van Occupanther, both now rightfully hailed as modern classics. Bolstered by a growing fanbase and a developed sense of their own far-reaching abilities, Midlake evinced a characteristic embrace of change by visiting darker psych-folk terrain on 2010’s The Courage Of Others while also backing John Grant on his milestone album, Queen Of Denmark. Guitarist Eric Pulido stepped into the role of lead vocalist with 2013’s exploratory Antiphon, joined by new members Jesse Chandler (keyboards, piano, flute) and Joey McClellan (guitars).
Midlake will celebrate their long-overdue return with a North American tour, including a very special two-night event alongside The Flaming Lips set for December 30 and New Year's Eve at The Caverns in Pelham, TN, a subterranean music venue renowned for its prehistoric natural acoustics and otherworldly beauty.