Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay’s (Tunng) side-project LUMP has returned with new album ‘Animal’ – a record unlike the previous output of either of these most talented artists. While Laura’s lyrics and observations draw on psychoanalysis and are playful and spontaneous, Mike explores a vast array of electronic soundscapes that sometimes drift towards deep psychedelia.
Opener ‘Bloom at Night’ is a slow-burner filled with jaunty electronic moments and Laura stating how it took a God seven days to go insane and giving warnings to the subject: ‘I predict you’ll regret your lust for life’. In the PR blurb, Laura says how liberating this project is: “LUMP is so the repository for so many things that I’ve had in my mind and just don’t fit anywhere in that way. They don’t have to totally make narrative sense, but weirdly they end up making narrative sense in some way… It became a very different thing about escaping a persona that has become a burden to me in some way. It was like putting on a superhero costume.’ This is certainly the case on the five and a half minutes of David Byrne-tinged art pop that make up ‘Gamma Ray’. There are electronic drumbeats, melodic hooks and abstract lyrics about agony and fantasy before it culminates in a squelch of feedback and vocal synthesisers.
The title track follows in lively style as Laura sings about crying at the window and discusses how ‘All that you want is to be heard’ in detached, almost robotic fashion. As the song falters and is then pieced back together, there’s something euphoric in the sound – and you can certainly hear the ’90s rave influences shining through. ‘Climb Every Wall”s woozy bass line will have you tapping your toes, while its lyrics about grief and being trapped in an act of convention provide a satisfyingly dark edge: ‘I can understand that you’re drowning, I can even understand why, lost in the art of devouring, will kill as much as keep you alive’.
We hear elements of Cat Power in the emotional and evocative opening of ‘Red Snakes’, a piano-based song enchanted by all kinds of subtle effects. while ‘Paradise’ is altogether more quirky with a synthbeat intro that sounds a little like the War of the Worlds-style aliens getting ready to invade. It then rolls into more of an offbeat pop sound with plenty of vocal interplay and observations on the power of fantasies and dreams and how ‘You mourn for a world that was’. There’s also an about-turn three and a half minutes in that seemingly comes out of nowhere but finishes the song in typically unsettling fashion. ‘We Cannot Resist’ opens with the title being whispered in increasingly sinister style before bursting into a kaleidoscopic and soulful sound with lyrics about kids – or first-time lovers – being on the run. This powerful, personal brand of storytelling brought to mind ‘Great American Novels’ including The Catcher in the Rye to us.
‘Oberon’ was set to be a Laura Marling solo song but she just couldn’t make the lyrics work in the context of her last album. However, over The Antlers-meets-Max Richter sound on show here, they are perfectly mournful: ‘I tried to play the boys’ game’. The album finishes with ‘Phantom Limb’ – a guitar-driven piece with Laura delivering random lines (‘how many funny sentences can I get into one song’) that ends up sounding something akin to a very blissed-out Pavement. Oh, and for those who enjoyed the credits on LUMP’s debut album… You’ll be pleased to hear they are back here.
‘Animal’ is the sound of two songwriters going wild but never forgetting the power of heart and melody.