There’s a staggering beauty and profundity to the everyday ebb and flow of life, and Long Island-based alt-rockers Last Charge of the Light Horse capture the simultaneous complexity and simplicity on their new single “Torricelli’s Ocean” from their new album Octet.
Named for Torricelli’s quote “we live at the bottom of an ocean of air” — with respect to a theorem in fluid dynamics having to do with the velocity of liquid — the song begins with a driving rhythm that settles into a cascade; from there, the overall mood of the song is a sunny shimmer, like light skittering across water, rounded out by wailing guitar and full, honeyed harmonies. It’s contemplative and reflectively celebratory at the same time:
Put the past behind us
Try to live in kindness
This quarantine feels like a marathon Turing Test at times
We live down at the bottom
of an ocean of air
in a sea of problems
But when the pressure doesn’t get us
we learn to fly (sometimes)
As the lyrics divulge, this album, Octet, was written with the pandemic as an immediate backdrop. In 2020, songwriter Jean-Paul Vest and his family were not only in the midst of the global health crisis, like the rest of us — but also moving house after 20 years in the same place.
“Our new place came with a stray cat, a black-and-white Tuxedo who had befriended the previous residents. He and I cautiously got to know each other as our family unpacked our old life, finding spots for some of our belongings and discovering we had outgrown others,” Vest recalls. “Gradually we collected those crumbs of familiarity that make a home, and at the same time, I began collecting little snippets of musical ideas on the acoustic guitar hanging on the wall by my desk.”
Not typically a prolific songwriter, Vest experienced the eight songs on Octet flowing to him in a wild deluge over a period of a mere four days. “Broadly, the songs are about the ebb and flow of human connection and isolation,” he says. “But the view is from a close perspective, focusing in on the moments when you’re lying awake with your worries at night, or laughing at a table with dear friends who you’ve sorely missed, or navigating the pitfalls of attempting to provide tech support via telephone to an elderly relative two time zones away.”
Last Charge of the Light Horse was formed in 2004 as a vehicle for songwriter Jean-Paul Vest’s offbeat tunes. The lineup of the group evolved in the early years before stabilizing for the past decade as a quartet, with Vest currently joined by drummer Shawn Murray, lead guitarist Bob Stander, and bassist Pemberton Roach. West Coast pals Jim Watts and Pam Aronoff have also become regular contributors on the group’s releases, with Watts also mixing and co-producing every Last Charge release since 2011’s Curve EP.
To date, the group has released five albums and two EPs, gaining mention in several “Best of the Year” lists and heavy rotation on college radio, charting as high as No. 1 on stations in the United States.