Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hundred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
(Matthew 4: 1-4)
A little over a year ago I found myself emerging from a period of great fasting, and of succumbing to the voice of the tempter. I was ensnared by unholy forces, assailed on all sides by that which could not feed my soul, nor bring comfort, and peace, to my troubled heart. How I wish I had the strength of the one they call the Saviour in that long period of hunger and trouble. Instead I worshiped false Gods, took to placing graven images, empty vessels, on high places, bending my knee and bearing witness, false witness, of their goodness.
May God have mercy on my soul.
But around about that same time, as my soul cried out for something that would give sustenance, that had substance, but that was more than a stone, the voice of God spoke to me and said, “Turn thine ears away from those who would no more bring the soothing balm of Gilead to that which ails you, than they would fill your home with gold. Yea, verily, I say unto thee, listen for signs of life. Open thine ears, and thine heart, and I will fill both with that which thou seeketh.”
That was quite the night.
Despite my lack of faith, God did indeed send something that filled my heart. Can I be honest?
Or overly dramatic?
When I heard “Birthing Bell” by Lines of Flight, at the same time as the world was burning and my passion, love, and interest in music was diminishing, it saved my life. In an instant I was lifted up from the depths of a cultural, and emotional, state of despair, and brought out of a terrible darkness. Here was something delicate, something careful, something graceful, something ethereal, something beautiful.
At around the same time, the gaggle of devils I had surrounded myself with at that point were losing their minds over some men in cagoules, churning out, spewing out, half baked ideas, in a style not dissimilar to a stag-do who had stumbled into a karaoke bar with a props box that contained inflatable guitars. Listening to Lines of Flight I realised that music still had the power to do magical things, that it could be more than achingly dull re-re-peats of things that weren’t all that great the first time around. Music could be BBC4 and not UK Gold. It could, in short, be intelligent, creative, artistic, and it could reject Del falling through the bar over and over again.
I was taken to the music that had defined me, that had shaped me, that had thrilled me.
At the start of the nineties I bought a copy of Select magazine because it had a free tape on the front cover. It was October 1990, when indie still meant independence and originality, when bands had one eye on the past, but both feet were striding forward. That tape was split between acts on 4AD and Mute. Dead Can Dance, Lush, Ultra Vivid Scene, Depeche Mode, Fortran 5. It also featured the dream pop delights of the Cocteau Twins, “Pitch The Baby”. That compilation, that song in particular, came rushing to my mind as the story of Lines of Flight began to unfold, unfurl, over the months following “Birthing Bell”. I was connected to the spirit of the bands who had so shaped me in those years before I lost myself in a cultural tornado in the mid-nineties.
Then in the summer of 2021, I boarded a train from Edinburgh and headed to Leeds. I hadn’t been to a restaurant, a film, a concert, or any other social gathering of any significance for quite some time…I can’t remember why now. It took a couple of changes, about five hours, and it cost me a fair bit of money. I booked into a cheap hotel in the centre of town. I was exhausted when I arrived, my autoimmune condition means I am plagued by fatigue. I tried to get some sleep on the wafer thin mattress, but I wasn’t successful. I had come to this mighty northern city for one purpose, to witness to the first live appearance of a band who had come to mean more to me than any other band had for many years.
Standing in the shadows of Headrow House, I stood spellbound as these two strangers performed less than a handful of songs. Did I shed a tear? Don’t be silly, I cried. It was perfect. All of the pain and heartache of the months before disappeared, I felt an almost physical sense of relief washing over me. This was, and I apologise for nothing, a spiritual experience.
The story of Lines of Flight has been documented by others, two strangers meet during lockdown, they make music, then take a chance and let the world hear it…and those who listen are changed. That’s the short version. Ask them for the details. It’s not my story to tell. But the idea that two people could find themselves brought into contact in the most turbulent of times, that they could connect in such a way that they could forge music of such wonder, is nothing short of a miracle. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Like Lazarus rising.
And now the debut album.
Each a verse in the book of life that is their work.
Each the answer to a prayer.
Each better than we sinners deserve.
Stories are told, emotions are shared, a hand is offered, hearts beat, and at every turn you find something else to delight you.
The long period of fasting is over.
From the desert have emerged two prophets, ready to give bread to those willing to accept it. Give thanks.