Indie Basement (7/30): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Greetings travelers. This week in the Basement: Laura Marling and Tunng's Mike Lindsay are back with their second proggy, synthy album as LUMP; former One Dove singer Dot Allison trades trip hop for baroque folk on her first album in 12 years; AJ Lambert and members of Protomartyr and Preoccupations form Bloodslide; '90s dreampop band Half String reissue their only album for its 25th anniversary, including its first vinyl release; and ultra-obscure UK indiepop band Magic Roundabout release their debut album...34 years after they broke up.
If you need more new album reviews, Andrew tackles nine in this week's Notable Releases, including Torres and King Woman. In addition to the records I review this week, some other Basement-adjacent stuff happened: Saint Etienne announced their 10th album (which sounds like nothing they've done before); the great Vivien Goldman is finally getting around to releasing an album 40 years after her debut (and only) single; Primal Scream are releasing a bunch of stuff around Screamadelica's 30th anniversary; Gustaf, one of my favorite Brooklyn bands who haven't released a record yet, have finally announced their debut; North Carolina's The Connells are back; Liars continue to freak me out with their videos; and Crack Cloud might actually get me inside a venue for a show (but not till October).
If the Delta variant has you back inside more, I recommend you spend a couple hours at Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.
I am also still obsessed with Wet Leg's "Chaise Lounge" and its perfect video. I like this song so much I'm scared to hear another song from them.
Enough of my intro-ing. This week's reviews are below.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Lump - Animal (Partisan / Chrysalis)
Laura Marling and Tunng's Mike Lindsay collaborate again for a second album of proggy, otherworldly synthpop.
When Laura Marling teamed up with Tunng's Mike Lindsay for an album as LUMP in 2018, it seemed like a one-off and a record that, as good as it was, wasn't totally sure what it wanted to be. Proving at least some of us wrong on some counts, LUMP have returned for a second album that has a much more definitive sound, point of view, and energy. “There’s a little bit of a theme of hedonism on the album, of desires running wild," says Lindsay. "We created LUMP as a sort of persona and an idea and a creature. Through LUMP we find our inner animal, and through that animal we travel into a parallel universe.”
Musically, Animal is a much more interesting beast, with songs built around Lindsay's Eventide H949 Harmonizer, which is the same pitch-shifter David Bowie used on Low. It gives everything here an eerie, dark, primal grit. Songs feel low to the ground, slinking through the tall grass in the moonlight. Marling stays in breathy, understated mode, which works perfectly with the dense harmony style at play here, often double tracked with ASMR-y pure whispered vocals. It's a different style for her, which she says was intentional. “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.” That goes for her lyrics, too, which are rich with imagery. "Those who find themselves acclaimed go to God to get renamed," she sings on "Bloom at Night," "It took one god seven days to go insane."
Add to that Lindsay's arrangements, full of warm cosmic synthesizers, fretless bass, and heavily treated guitars and you've got a very specific environment for LUMP to thrive. The songs are great, too. "Animal," "We Cannot Resist," "Bloom at Night," and "Climb Every Wall" are wonderfully askew pop singles, while the more delicate songs -- "Red Snakes," "Hair on the Pillow" -- bewitch like quiet moments in Italian horror films. With Animal, this LUMP has really taken shape and lets hope Marling and Lindsay continue to let it run wild.
Dot Allison - Heart-Shaped Scars (SA Recordings)
The former One Dove singer' first album in 12 years trades in trip hop for baroque, bucolic folk. Gorgeous stuff.
Dot Allison should be better known than she is, given her CV. She was singer for One Dove, the Scottish trip hop group who were signed to Andrew Weatherall's Boy's Own label, and she went on to collaborate with Massive Attack ("Aftersun"), Paul Weller, Kevin Shields, Pete Doherty, Mick Harvey, Arab Strap and Hal David, to name a few, in addition to her rewarding and varied solo career. Out of the spotlight for 12 years, Dot is back with her fifth solo album which finds her eschewing electronic sounds almost entirely in favor of bucolic, baroque folk. Gorgeously produced and arranged, it is a natural fit for her still wonderous voice.
The earth and its flora are a key influence here. "My dad was a botanical doctor and geneticist and my mother is a musician," Dot says in the album's liner notes. "I see certain flowers as almost like visual metaphors for certain organs all species share." She cites artists like Linda Perhacs, Gene Clark, Karen Dalton, Opal/Mazzy Star, the Wicker Man soundtrack -- as well as Weatherall's curatorial mixtape abilities -- as musical influences, and it's all very apparent on ethereal creations like "Can You Hear Nature Sing?" and "Ghost Orchid" (one of a few rare flowers that get namechecked on the album). Her voice is the primary instrument, with layers of gossamer harmonies set against diaphanous arrangements that are more often than not a delicately plucked nylon string guitar and strings. For those looking for a little '90s flavor there's "Love Died In Our Arms" which reminds us that she can do this sort of thing better than almost anyone. But Heart-Shaped Scars shows she doesn't need to rely on it.
Half String - A Fascination with Heights reissue (Independent Projects)
The Arizona dreampop group's only album gets its first-ever vinyl pressing for its 25th anniversary
Arizona's Half String existed from 1991 to 1997 and made soaring, dreamy guitar pop, but bandleader Brandon Capps didn't see them as shoegazers. “Half String was the same generation as those bands, and felt a kinship, but we wanted to create our own thing. We coined the term ‘beautiful noise’ to describe what we were doing." Half String were signed to Independent Project Records, the label run by Bruce Licher of Savage Republic who signed a lot of bands that made beautiful noise (For Against, Springhouse, Licher's other band, Scenic).
Half String released a number of singles but only one album, 1996's A Fascination with Heights, that came out not long before they broke up. It's a terrific record that definitely skews a little more toward the atmospheric postpunk of The Sound and Comsat Angels than what Ride, Swervedriver or My Bloody Valentine were doing. Poppier too. Choruses are loaded with "lah lahs" and "Bah bah bahs," and songs like "Backstroke" and the album's title track are pure sunshine.
For the album's 25th anniversary, it's getting reissued, including its first-ever vinyl release. expanded to a double set, the second disc features seven bonus tracks, including unreleased album sessions, rehearsal tapes, a 1994 live performance and a remix of the title track featuring lead vocals by Catherine Cooper of Alison’s Halo. The A Fascination with Heights reissue also features new artwork created by Licher -- whose letterpress printing style is as distinctive to Independent Projects as Vaughan Oliver's style was to 4AD -- and comes with a bonus 7" single with a "folding sleeve featuring two previously unreleased songs packaged in a numbered letterpress printed oversized die cut package with large folding insert with extensive liner notes." LIke all Licher-designed sleeves, it's a gorgeous looking package.
The CD and digital reissues are out September 17 while the vinyl will be out "before Christmas." Pre-order yours. and check out this new video for "The Apathy Parade":
Bloodslide - Bloodslide EP ()
Gothy collaboration between AJ Lambert, Protomartyr's Greg Ahee and Preoccupations' Mike Wallace
A few years back AJ Lambert, who is the daughter of Nancy Sinatra, released a tribute album to her grandfather Frank Sinatra that featured Protomartyr guitarist Greg Ahee. They enjoyed working together and that led to new project, Bloodslide, that also includes Preoccupations drummer Mike Wallace. Collaborating with producer Sonny DiPerri (Protomartyr, Diiv, Animal Collective) and Ommatidium Studios, Bloodslide was conceptualized as a multimedia project, both music and visual art. It also sounds like a little bit of all three acts. Protomartyr and Preoccupations both have a little of that black cloud post-punk thing going on -- Ahee's playing has always reminded me of The Chameleons -- and they lean on that here. The four songs on Bloodslide's debut EP are overflowing with dark, romantic drama. Ahee stretches his atmospheric muscles, as well as his love of big, blasting chords, while Wallace favors the toms for a big, clattering, sweeping sound. Lambert meanwhile ably fills the Siouxsie/Peter Murphy role (Anna Calvi is probably closer, though), with a dextrous voice that can vacillate from a whisper to a wail. I may prefer their main bands, but I hope Bloodslide continues.
I'm partial to "How Glad I Am" that sounds like a goth prom theme. The video for it, like all the clips for the EP, is pretty cool, exploring the same vibe as the songs but via digital art:
Magic Roundabout - "She's a Waterfall" & "Sneaky Feelin'" (Third Man)
"Lost" debut album from '80s Manchester indie band, 35 years after they broke up, finally surfaces thanks in part to Pale Saints' Ian Masters and His Name is Alive's Warren Defever
I consider myself pretty well-versed in British indie music of the '80s and '90s but just when you think you're heard it all, along comes something like Magic Roundabout. Hailing from Manchester, the group never released anything during their existence, apart from one song on a very rare cassette compilation curated by Pulp's Mark Weber. They apparently ran in similar circles as Spacemen 3, Loop, and My Bloody Valentine, but to these ears are closer in sound to the greater C-86 scene that gave us The Shop Assistants, The Pastels and The Vaselines.
How we're now hearing about them is an equally indie story. Ian Masters, who led Pale Saints, discovered tapes of a few songs and passed them along to His Name is Alive's Warren Defever (they made records together as ESP Summer) who currently works for Third Man Mastering. Defever was listening to the songs in the studio one day while Third Man's Dave Buik was there -- Dave became obsessed, and obsessed with hearing more.
Third Man released a 7" back in the spring that featured two songs -- one of which was about The Blue Aeroplanes' Gerard Langley -- and now the label have announced a whole Magic Roundabout album, titled Up, which will be out September 24. You can listen to two of the album's six tracks now, both of which fall into that so-twee-it's-punk bucket: the shambolic, awesome "Sneaky Feelin'" and the all-downstrokes, very dreamy, very VU "She's a Waterfall" (which was on that cassette comp). As to questions like "but who are they" and "did they play in other bands," I don't know! But if you're read this far in the column you're gonna love it. You can watch videos for both:
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