I remember in the summer of 2011, when the first WU LYF album was due for release, watching a YouTube music reviewer jumping aboard the hype train like the rest of us, and having either a fun time or a hard time describing their music. He eventually settled on “basically like Isaac Brock fronting an African Arcade Fire with Panda Bear mixing it and they’re playing in a church on a massive organ”. Whether or not by design, the tactic of continued obfuscation from the band seemed to have bled itself into the music, which was presumably the underlying reason for the band’s demise.
Eight years removed, and Ellory Roberts’ current project with partner Ebony Hoorn has seen them dial down the smoke and mirrors, instead reaching inside themselves, ruminating on love and all the theatrics that come with it. There’s a similar mix and match feeling to Roberts’ previous work on this record, but it feels decidedly more focused and self-assured. Love Hates What You Become is a relentlessly intense record in both its full-blown and softer moments, and producer John Congleton (whose work with Swans is immediately called to mind on tracks like ‘Black Sun Rising’) keeps the subtlety button completely out of sight and out of mind.
Opener ‘Come’ is a damned mess of a track, a blown-speaker-cone tantrum that sounds like it should end with a voiceover announcing how you can catch all the Six Nations action this month on BT Sport. And unfortunately, ‘The Breath Of Light’ is accidentally a self-serious artsy Mancunian’s take on Kirk Van Houten’s ‘Can I Borrow A Feeling’ from The Simpsons. A reminder that vocal affectations does not a memorable melody make.
Thankfully, there are moments where the LP’s identity is fully fleshed out, such as the stomping ‘Savage Messiah’, which is a dead ringer for where The Icarus Line were heading before their break-up. This serves as the example of when Roberts’ vocal is fused to the atmosphere, rather than cumbersomely rasping above the mix. ‘Post Millennial Tension’ is practically musical theatre for art schoolers, and Hoorn’s vocal delivery is passionate and cathartic, briefly matching Roberts’ histrionics.
By far the best track on the record is ‘Most High’. An extremely sweet and saccharine number, and emblematic of the whole project – it demands you dive right into their pool and submerge yourself, but if you’re not willing, then it’s not going to work. Sure, that may be more of a pragmatic reading than an album this emotionally charged deserves, but Lost Under Heaven clearly want all or nothing from the listener. If you give all of yourself, it’ll pay dividends, but sometimes you shouldn’t have to work this hard to be able to enjoy a record.
LOVE HATES WHAT YOU BECOME IS AVAILABLE NOW VIA MUTE.