Words by Tom Sloman
LUMP is the new musical creation of Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay, an acclaimed music producer and founding member of avant-garde folk band Tunng. The two had been fans of each other’s work previously and Lindsay needed a new vocalist for his ‘ambitious new sound cycle’. If this initially sounds daunting, this collection of psychedelic, ambitious and melodic tunes will push that thought aside as Marling and Lindsay envelope you in their brave new world.
The album immerses you slowly with the looping ‘Late To The Flight’, which makes glorious use of studio trickery to layer Marling’s vocals over and over into a kaleidoscopic tapestry. It’s simply hypnotising and a trick that Lump use to stunning effect throughout the record. The harmonies are simultaneously gorgeous and ominous, producing some kind of Lewis Carroll-esque dreamscape.
There are also immediate moments on the record, lead single ‘Curse of the Contemporary’ being one of them. It’s a tune that recalls vintage 60s pop but imbued with LUMP’s surrealist twist. The track is buoyed by Marling’s unmistakable vocals that urge the listeners to think twice before setting their sights on Californian idealism: ‘If you should be bored in California, I’m sure I’m not the first to warn ya’. The lyrics could be partly influenced by Marling’s time living in the US, but also her urge to slice through contemporary blandness, inspired by absurdist poetry of Edward Lear and Ivor Cutler. Whatever her inspiration, it is a masterclass in delivery and songwriting.
This is where LUMP excel, balancing Lindsey’s tight arrangements and surreal soundscapes with Marling’s incisive lyricism and smart lines. While more ambient and creepy than ‘Curse of the Contemporary’, ‘Shake Your Shelter’ is a brilliant example of how Lindsey and Marling use their contrasting songwriting approaches to form something unique. It is a beautifully atmospheric track, with Lindsey consistently adding instrumentation throughout the track as it gathers pace, like a sleeper train picking up more and more passengers as it passes through the night.
There are moments when the surrealism is allowed to go one step too far – ‘Hand Hold Hero’ is one of these moments. The track begins with a bubbling synth, leading into an eerie Marling melody that then overlaps on itself, which then leads to an extended synth breakdown, proceeding into a wall of sound effects and finally a series of ambient bleeping. Essentially, it becomes a bit too much, with none of the elements of the track getting the space they need. It means the track becomes overly claustrophobic and needlessly dense. This is a rare blip on an otherwise excellent record and it’s better to reach for the adventurous and fall, rather than go for the bland and nail it.
Once the record reaches its end credits – ‘LUMP is a Product’ – you realise you have been successfully transported to another world for the best part of forty minutes. It’s a world full of technicolour instrumentation, irony and sharp melodies. Lindsey and Marling cryptically state that LUMP is now its own entity, morphing and changing without them: they only step in when necessary. Let us hope they step back in sooner rather than later.
LUMP IS OUT FRIDAY (1/6). PRE-ORDER HERE: