Lump (Dead Oceans)
An inelegant name notwithstanding, Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (who you probably don’t remember from Tunng, but they’re a band you should investigate) have a song collection here that is graceful and odd, spectral and flowing, spontaneous and yet crafted, abstract but touched down on something very real.
He’s written and played all the music; she’s contributed the lyrics and voice and this six track set takes their connections on folk’s edges (hers with rock and pop; his in electronica) and imbues it all with a slightly out of focus perspective that makes delineations hazy most of the time. The only thing that is clear is an uneasy, or at least unsteady, modern existence.
In Hand Hold Hero, for example, a persistent electronic autobahn momentum features almost haphazard percussive and instrumental “noise” contributions through its final stages (that merge seamlessly into the contrasting next track, Shake Your Shelter) which gives the sense of destination sought. However, before then, out of wafting away high vocal sounds, Marling’s dry and deep delivery gives us someone offering dispassionate advice (“don’t buy nothing you’re being sold, I’ve told once and again”) and dry-eyed observation (“you can’t complain once you’ve been bought”) while promising “I choose to always be there for you”, in a way that suggests a rootlessness to the emotion.
Even the softer tone of Shake Your Shelter - electronic bass ala China Crisis, almost twinkling keyboards and floating backing voices, all at a rhythm that is just above somnolent – makes it clear that hanging on to emotional touchstones is an empty gesture eventually.
When the EP begins with the kind of acoustic warmth and nods to electronica that characterised some of the prettier moments of Tunng, that song, Late To The Flight, seems poised to become a pretty entry point. But the almost Syd Barrettish tone of the lyrics (innocent but off kilter) and Marling’s disembodied voice (that does in fact “look like a crooner in crisis” as she sings here) shift you out of dream into a semi-conscious/semi-poised state that extends into the pinned ephemera of May I Be The Light.
The most clear-eyed and solidly grounded track here (well, apart from the quirky final track which is Marling reciting the full credits list) is the earlier single Curse Of The Contemporary, which feels like nothing less than a crossroad between her last album, Semper Femina, and the new Arctic Monkeys album.
There’s a sinuousness to it in both bass (fluid and high) and vocals (piqued and high); guitars appearing and disappearing like they’re in rooms whose doors are opened and shut on you as you pass; lyrics which play on Californian tropes both physical and mythical; and a sense that you are at a party in the Hollywood hills and you’re just about to drop a couple of pills and give away the next 12 hours.
Fascinating. It may be a side project but LUMP feels worthy of something more than peripheral views.