“Darkly beautiful, Floydian in nature… a wonderful listen if the stock of Prozac holds out”: Bruce Soord’s Luminescence

The Pineapple Thief leader’s third solo album feels autumnal and meditative

Bruce Soord - Luminescence
(Image: © Kscope)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

There are albums that seem untimely, out of season. This ain’t one of them. Deeply poignant, and suffused in autumnal melancholy, Luminescence is a darkly beautiful record, which chimes with the approach of shorter days in troubling times.

Bruce Soord has said that it was “inspired by the idea of finding inner peace,” and it explores the difficulties of living in a modern metropolis. He doesn’t sound as though he has found equanimity, but during 12 poised songs which maintain a singular, pronounced atmosphere, his ongoing search proves hugely absorbing.

Musically, Luminescence isn’t dissimilar in mood or instrumentation to Soord’s last solo LP, 2019’s All This Will Be Yours. This time there’s much more intensity and intent, though; a more meditative stoicism. 

Beginning with a bare acoustic guitar motif, which dissolves on a slow-dying reverb tail, opener Dear Life is a gentle grower on which Soord takes the perspective of an elderly, dying parent talking to their child. Elsewhere, Olomouc, seemingly taking its title from the Czech city, is deeply contemplative, even bruised. ‘How could I prepare for life’s assault on me?’ The Pineapple Thief bandleader sings, his voice full of questioning.

Lie Flat makes excellent use of a subtle electronic pulse and dulcimer/zither-like sounds; the elegiac string arrangements that were tracked at the 11th hour at London’s RAK Studios bring extra emotional heft. Engineered and conducted by The Divine Comedy’s Andrew Skeet, these strings aren’t just fairy dust; rather they are key, classy components on songs like Day Of All Days, which packs a gorgeous, sepia-tinted chorus that’s broadly reminiscent of China Crisis’s Wishful Thinking.

Field recordings made in a number of different cities while on tour are another element of Luminescence, hence we hear ambient traffic noise on stressed commuter instrumental Rushing, and a non-British police car siren at the start of Nestle In.

Elsewhere, Stranded Here, possibly about a break-up, reminds us that these songs are inextricably linked, different components of a complex, many-sided malaise. The most perfectly-formed song here, though, is the aptly named So Simple, a two-minute interlude on which Soord sings, ‘We cling to this dear life.’

Playing all instruments (strings aside) himself as he so often has, Soord has made a fine, immersive record of rare gravitas. Its stretch for the profoundly universal is Floydian in nature, and it comes with a whole album of bonus material titled Our Ship Sails At Dusk. Luminescence is the main course, however; a wonderful listen if the stock of Prozac holds out.

Luminescence is on sale now via Kscope.

James McNair

James McNair grew up in East Kilbride, Scotland, lived and worked in London for 30 years, and now resides in Whitley Bay, where life is less glamorous, but also cheaper and more breathable. He has written for Classic Rock, Prog, Mojo, Q, Planet Rock, The Independent, The Idler, The Times, and The Telegraph, among other outlets. His first foray into print was a review of Yum Yum Thai restaurant in Stoke Newington, and in many ways it’s been downhill ever since. His favourite Prog bands are Focus and Pavlov’s Dog and he only ever sits down to write atop a Persian rug gifted to him by a former ELP roadie.