Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

Rare Vitamin Records – 5th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it – again – anyway: we live in pretty bleak times. Everything is fucked. But perhaps with the many things which have deteriorated, diminished or otherwise been eroded in recent years, from various freedoms and basic rights to quality of life, be it access to medical and mental health care to how far paychecks go, one of the most depressing in many respects is the rise of anti-intellectualism. It’s not even a question of dumbing down, so much as a culture that seems to mistrust, and even dislike intelligence, debate, and even artistry and creativity. To question the motives of funding of an individual or organisation is healthy: to denigrate and dismiss all ‘experts’ is insane.

England, in particular, has a uniquely worrying and ultimately debasing attitude which stems from members of its ultra-privileged, ultra-capitalist, right-wing government, which is disconcertingly open about nits agenda to attack the arts and culture, not only in having a minister for culture who has precisely none, but also an education department hell-bend on defunding and cancelling degree courses in the arts on the premise that they don’t dovetail into careers that pay. There’s clearly something wrong here, since the music industry generates billions of pounds a year in the UK – or at least it did, before the double whammy of the pandemic and Brexit screwed both grassroots venues and musicians alike.

The arrival of The Battery Farm’s ‘A Working Class Lad’, then, is something of a breath of fresh air. Taking its title from a poem from A. E. Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad collection (1986), it’s a song which addresses the uniquely British issue of class, and how class division can affect a family.

The Manchester four-piece may describe themselves as ‘gutter punk’ and promise ‘a ferocious, muscular, gnarly track that ebbs and flows with purpose, precision and venom’, but they’re unafraid to be open with their literary allusions and reflect on issues without lapsing into the common political / anti-government tropes through a bunch of half-baked slogans that are standard punk fare.

With a jet-propelled drums and a robust, chugging riff behind the sneering vocals, The Battery Farm prove in three minutes that it’s possible to be punky and abrasive but not dumb. Just as the song tackles duality and (inner) conflict while at the same time being a seething roar of vitriol, so ‘A Working Class Lad’ showcases some savvy songwriting beneath the fire of a throat-grabbing rager. It’s a rare joy to hear a song that actually says something, but is equally fine to take on face value as something to most around to and pump your fists at the raw energy.

With a brace of EPs under their belts and ‘A Working Class Lad’ being the first single from their debut album, out in November, The Battery Farm are a rare thing – the perfect combination of brains and balls, they’re a band worth getting excited about.

AA

a2765299803_10

1st March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Lusterlit are a duo comprising Charlie Nieland and Susan Hwang. The pair are part of Bushwick Book Club, in Brooklyn, a rotating group of songwriters and performers put who on regular shows featuring new music, art and snacks inspired by a chosen work of literature.

Concept and eclecticism are evidently very much core to their ethos: they promise ‘a mix of styles ranging from indie to soul to shades of shoegaze, reminiscent of PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, U2 and more,’ and, unusually, draw their lyrical inspiration entirely from the literary world. As someone who often bemoans the dumbing down of rock music, while running around shouting about how literature is the new rock ‘n’ roll because literature is the original rock ‘n’ roll and rock ‘n’ roll is dead, this appeals, at least if one perhaps overlooks the mention of U2.

List of Equipment somehow sounds like something Steve Albini would call an album or an EP, and it follow on from their previous releases, Hopeful Monsters and Everything is Sateen: Five Songs Inspired by Vonegut.

The first track, ‘Ceremony (Inspired by Blood Meridian)’ may not be a New Order cover, but does create a slow-building, claustrophobic atmosphere. But with some mournful guitars sliding beneath Hwang’s vocal, which in turn calls to mind the spirit and sound of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, its haunting darkness is still infinitely more accessible than Cormac McCarthy’s text. The song builds to a swirling climax of breaking tension, the drums rumbling like thunder in the distance.

In keeping with the eclectic sourcing of material, the title track draws its inspiration from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. ‘We’re all gonna die,’ Hwang rasps against a nagging, insistent stomp. The gentle middle eight drops into a more baking-friendly zone before all hell breaks loose with frenzied pianos and percussive detonations that punches an angry hole in the coffee table fodder of a book listed on Amazon a ‘a statement, not of culinary intent, but of aspiration.’

The inspiration for the murky The Day of the Triffids – a work I first encountered as a child via the 1970s BBC adaptation – requires no explanation here, and with clattering, minimal beats and a woozy, squirming synth, Lusterlit convey the creeping fear of John Wyndham’s classic novel with disturbing adeptness.

The swing into funk-tinged soul for ‘Fight’, the first of a diptych of songs inspired by Johnathan Letham’s The Fortress of Solitude (a book I’ll admit that I haven’t read) marks a significant stylistic shift, and while it’s not my musical bag, it’s slickly executed, and demonstrates the wide-ranging versatility of Lusterlit’s musical skills, with Nieland’s dextrous picking having as natural a flow as Hwang’s soulful vocals. Its counterpart song, ‘Genius of Love’ lays down a late-night groove with a shuffling drum and over the course of its six minutes, channels a dreamy atmosphere, rounding off a set of songs that are intelligent, articulate and appealing, without any offputting airs of intellectual snobbery.

 

Lusterlit - List of Equiptment Cover