Passion Meets Protest
Love Under Heaven (LUH for short), takes the idea of ‘us against the world’ and advances it to ‘together we’ll dismantle it’, a notion that’s assuredly instilled in the multitudes of individuals who feel crushed under the current circumstances that surround us. LUH is the passion project of former WU-LYF frontman Ellery James Roberts and artist/partner Ebony Hoorn, with debut album Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing (Mute Records) jam packed with heavy hitting songs of love, natural life, demolishing capitalism and creating a society free of the systematic crushing of the many for the few. If that sounds heavy, it’s because it is – with Roberts stating in an interview with Pitchfork “I don’t enjoy making entertainment for hedonists,” in context pertaining to the potential state of the world in 30 years if the 1% choose to sustain their current lifestyles. This serves as an example indicative of the LUH debut’s entire aesthetic; a militant flair coupled with bombastic drama that positively screams for change. Spiritual is an intentionally aggressive anthem-based protest album that leaves no room for nuance or metaphor – the album is conviction defined, matching the fervor of two lovers looking to spread a message – crush it and rebuild.
LUH began with the disillusioned Roberts meeting Hoorn in a cramped kitchen because of a minor cut, serving as the catalyst for both an intense romance and creative start up phase, with dreams of turning LUH into a seven piece band who channeled Fugazi and perhaps eventually creating their own label. For now they plot an upcoming tour as a four piece while promoting their debut.
Synth and reverb heavy, hefty and emotional, Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing utilizes Robert’s inimitable growl as the main instrument buoyed by Hoorn’s breathy warble, serving to create a balance that leaves a little more of Hoorn to be desired. Once the needle is down the album showcases intricate production via The Haxan Cloak (Bjork), with driving beats, hammering percussion and a bevy of brass and strings. Kicking off with “I&I,” a track that begins with tinkling keys before Roberts immediately accosts the listener with his graveled delivery while Hoorn joins in with demure vocals a level or so down so as to complement and provide a relief. Employing a slow, repetitive build that creates a colossal tension, the track clocks in at 2 minutes and some change, a solid hint of whats to come. “Unites” starts with a rolling beat and a modest bass line, Roberts’ grumble elevated with reverb and quickly becoming the true titan of the effort. Such an aggressive aspect is a always a gamble for any musical endeavor, resulting in a love it or hate it reaction and removing any middle ground. Being employers of extremes coupled with the type of immediate protest LUH is trying to convey, this seems appropriate – if you were looking for subtlety, you won’t find it here.
“Beneath The Concrete” keeps pace with “Unites,” beginning quick with an upbeat, intense and immediate melody utilizing synth, chant and thundering slams of percussion to drive things through. “Future Blues ” is an aptly timed pacebreaker, abandoning the previous impelling energy and Robert’s instant entrance for Hoorn’s subtler croon, breathing in an endearing accent with lyrics like “I’m so bored of this reality / of fearful men trying to limit me / I am so much more than this body,” over a slow and sprawling sound. It’s entrancing and a helpful aid that lends a little clarity and an introspective on this couple who crave change with such conviction. “Someday Come” juxtaposes beautifully simmering strings against Robert’s consonant sacrificing vocals while “$ORO” is a track ready made for air punching – huge with tripping vocals by both members in a heavily modulated motif that could easily serve as a generational cry.
With moments of sweetness, glimpses into the devotion between Hoorn and Roberts and an acoustic closer, LUH’s debut serves up hot protest with intensity, creating an immediacy that may serve to motivate others to address it. If anyone’s ever needed a colossal and cathartic soundtrack to literally burn something down to – this is it.