This is a guest post by Hannah-Lily Lanyon of Strange Charm.
Any audience member at LUMP’s OSLO Hackney gig would be struck by Laura Marling’s astonishing vocal performance, which entirely steal the show. Marling’s semi-operatic tones mark the departure from her earlier work, and emphasise her development as an artist who can synthesise experimental, ethereal vocals with the rapidly changing tempo and melodies of folk-rock hybrid songs such as ‘Curse of the Contemporary’.
Indeed, while Marling’s vocals stray from her folk beginnings, the songs themselves carry a more melodic sound than some of her more recent work, such as ’Short Movie’. In LUMP, Marling seems to have found a place to experiment, and while we might question the need for a side project to do so, Mike Lindsay’s production provides a truly unusual sound. As a fan of Tuung’s early work, I enjoy the samples and beats he brings to the LUMP sound. Moreover, LUMP is a more cohesive attempt at a concept project than Marling’s earlier concept pieces – the aforementioned ’Short Movie’, for example, or ‘Once I Was an Eagle’ which was transformed into an immersive, concept experience by Secret Cinema in 2014. Of course to some extent LUMP’s obsession with the ‘concept’ is overdone, with their PR campaign taking centre stage in the initial presentation over the music itself. Nevertheless, the album is a slickly produced meeting of minds which marks a step forward for both musicians.
Yet the extent to which this translated in live performance is questionable. While Marling takes the spotlight, the band behind her seems somewhat busy; Mike Lindsey’s hectic stage presence clashing with Marling’s celestial serenity. This is one way in which LUMP does not necessarily translate to the stage. The album is a clear collaboration of two musicians, Lindsay bringing the unique production and Marling the intelligent and pertinent lyrics communicated by her startling and unique voice. Yet on stage, Marling is clearly the focus, and the accompanying band seem somewhat of a muddying distraction, Lindsay clearly a side piece, coming across as a wannabe rocker from a bygone age, while Marling transcends time entirely. Indeed, perhaps the somewhat abstract and confusing graphic of a CGI furry animal that has constituted the LUMP aesthetic previous to these shows is the best union of the two clashing presences.
It will be interesting to monitor LUMP’s longevity. Musically, it is unique, and brings something refreshing and interesting not just to the British music scene but to the folk/rock soundscape in general. Nevertheless, the project has a sense of the transient to it, feeling a bit like an interval in Marling’s career and a brief moment in the spotlight for Lindsay. Having said this, if LUMP were to continue into a second album and more performances, I’d be excited to see where they would go next, and am grateful that 2018 has been punctuated with this album.
-- Beautiful Freaks, June 14, 2018