Soft sounds from the beast: present becoming future
The unlikely London-based pop duo LUMP, comprised of experimental film composer Mike Lindsay and folk singer Laura Marling, create tracks like secrets being spilled out of ancient lips, and their newest album, Animal, is a continuation of their soft, psychedelic dreams. A testament to the wildness of their music creation is the group’s mascot, a yeti. While in the recording studio, Marling, currently pursuing a master’s degree in psychoanalysis, writes introspective lyrics on a whim to Lindsay’s digitally-grounded instrumentals. The music tends to “create itself” from there, leading to something transformative in the fusion of digital and folk music.
As a result, Animal is both natural and abnormal sounding, with its soft lyrics with sashaying harmonies reflected through a vast array of instruments from flutes to synths. Many of the songs on the album are in 7/4 time, but this often goes undetected underneath Marling’s airy voice and the tales she weaves, which flow effortlessly across Lindsay’s digital soundscapes.
The opening track, “Bloom At Night,” starts as simply as the opening to a meditative video game soundtrack, such as Monument Valley. The sounds of a low flute and clarinet duet give way to Marling’s steady voice, and it’s tempting to either fall into a blissful sleep or go running into a lush forest to fulfill some destiny. Drums and synth enter halfway through, and the track is soon fortified into a heavier aesthetic, resembling something from the world of pop. The song finally decrescendos, dying the same way it was born.
With a soft flute underlying the track, “Gamma Ray” swoops across the ears, softly making way for ethereal wind chimes, like the gentle buzzing of a fly. Drums enter, and the duo’s experimental tendencies begin to shine through. The bass is doubled over with percussion, and the lyrics stretch and mold into a dark, fantastical tale. As Marling sings, “The agony, the fantasy, something to be caged,” it’s hard to resist clutching at the chest and looking for that same feeling within.
The more traditionally “indie” track, “Climb Every Wall,” is grounded in familiar piano and drums. It resembles both the electronica of Djo and the acoustics of Babe Rainbow. It’s a great track to get lost in the sand to, with its simple synth and light, jazzy flute. Marling sings about overconsumption, anxiety and self-sabotage, culminating in an interesting paradox: “I can understand that you’re drowning…lost in the art of devouring/ Will kill as much keep you alive.”
The ballad “Red Snakes” is another mellow piece, with raw, live piano and lyrics that are sung like a gentle and honest whisper. At first hypnotic and trance-inducing, “Paradise” soon evolved into something dark and mysterious, like the narrator of Japanese Breakfast’s “Machinist” inviting in a new era of Earth amidst the trees.
The shortest track on the album, “Hair On The Pillow,” functions more as an interlude and gives Lindsay the chance to show off his background in film scoring. With its witchy, Fleetwood Mac-inspired sound, it feels like it’d fit right in on an episode of American Horror Story.
Welcomed in with a reverberating piano, “Oberon” is another mellow, poetic track. The group dips into their minimalist side, allowing Marling to flex her creative lyricism singing: “Oberon, you let me down/ Nothing you can do or say to change that now/ I never stood up to the fakes/ Perhaps I’ll get it back someday/ Fragments that were lost among the reframe.”
The final track, “Phantom Limb,” is also the longest at nearly seven minutes, with layered guitar harmonies and soft, Weyes Blood-esque vocals. Marling employs her rich vocabulary, and the lyrics feel especially emotive and intellectual. During one standout verse, she sings: “Phantom limb there for grim evaluation/ Shocked pause for self-immolation/ Harsh light for your elucidation?/ Evidence for your annihilation?” This cut ends the record on an ambiguous note, like the blank space at the end of a book chapter, feeling equal parts heartfelt, emotional and indifferent.
With Animal, LUMP has once again achieved a deft blend of disparate genres while striking a near-perfect balance between each member’s distinct approach to songcraft. Evoking images of a future rooted in both music and reality, this record provides listeners with a unique cross between the digital and natural worlds.