We’ve covered the music of Ben Lovell, aka Lung Cycles, a whole bunch here at Wake the Deaf. On his own label Lily Tapes and Discs, Lovell has released some really nice split releases with the likes of German Error Message and Ylayali, not to mention his work under previous moniker Squanto. His latest release, On Being Lumpy, is actually not new at all, written and recorded in late-night dorm room sessions between between autumn 2010 and spring 2011, in what proved to be a difficult time for Lovell. As he explains:
“I avoided it for a long time because I had a hard time hearing anything in it besides how frustrated and anxious I was that year, but in coming back to it recently I was kinda surprised to realize that it sounded like music made by a different person than who I am now, and that I was able to enjoy it on its own terms.”
On Being Lumpy contains all the things that we’ve come to love from Lung Cycles (and Lily Tapes in general). The atmosphere is meditative, gently experimental songs for the twenty-first century. Think part ambient electronics, part insular lo-fi bedroom folk. ‘Snow Falls on One Side of a Window’ opens with guitar as gentle as falling snowflakes, the background drone muffled like the sounds of the city beneath a cold white blanket. This is followed by ‘Field of Glass’, which adds Lovell’s soft vocals, as he sings about running across a beach in the early morning.
“I woke up every morning
put on my shirt from the night before
to join up with another
as we jog across the shore”
The album continues in this contemplative manner, particularly at its centre point. ‘After Everyone Else Left’ is a beautifully reflective instrumental piece based around elegaic piano, stretching beyond the ten minute mark, allowing the listener plenty of time to get sucked into its pensive atmosphere. Personal favourite ‘For a While’ is another long song, although this one goes back to the guitar and vocals formula, eventually blooming with percussion into something of a ramshackle folk hymn. Lovell’s vocals stretch into desperate cries, the fragility that has so far defined the album breaking into something raw and anxious.
Things are delicate and isolated on ‘The View From There’, before the arrival of flittering percussion, like moth wings around a candle, and multi-tracked vocals that sound like dissenting voices in Lovell’s head. There’s a windswept devotional feel on ‘Like Chlorine’, the lonely ode from some hillside monastery, the grinding crunch that finishes the track either the sound of clattering wind chimes or glass bottles breaking in a trash-strewn alley.
Lots of On Being Lumpy is like this. It possesses a kind of duality, the paradoxical result of beautiful art and self-expression arising from anxiety and doubt. It’s a decidedly cold album, but cold in the way of a long winter night rather than devoid of emotion. Perhaps it’s for this reason that the album holds a special place in Lovell’s heart and is being re-released? Perhaps, even if it dawned with great delay, making this album was important. As he explains in his introduction to the re-release, “I had been making music for a long time before this album, but it’s the first thing I made that I would describe as “personal,” even though the songs weren’t really about anything or anyone in particular. I think I was trying to make music that felt like coming in from the snow”.
You can get On Being Lumpy on cassette or as a digital download from the Lily Tapes & Discs Bandcamp page.