Lump — surrealist dream states

LUMP are Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay, both darlings of the post-Millennium folk scene. Marling was initially known as a character in a real-life folk-music soap opera, but closed the book on that definitively with “Blackberry Stone”; in a continuing series of reliably excellent solo albums she has explored feminism and Americana, declaring a break with English ruralism with the Joni Mitchell rush of the first four segued tracks of Once I Was An Eagle. Lindsay was one of the founders of Tunng, celebrated for bringing what he has called “electronica, glitch, cut’n’paste twistedness” to Wicker Man folk melody.

Anyone wanting to be annoyed at LUMP will have ample opportunity. There is the lyric “if you keep rolling the dices”, baiting pedants all through “Late to the Flight”, all for the sake of setting up a rhyme with “crooner in crisis” (a genre now encompassing everyone from Father John Misty to Alex Turner). There is the closing “LUMP is a product (end credits)”, on which Marling reads out the album credits over a reverberant wash of synthesisers. There is the pair’s notion of LUMP as a shambling yeti with a life of its own, like a 21st century outbreak of King Crimson.

But there is plenty to love as well. Lindsay lays down a bedrock of texture: keyboard sounds that shimmer like the Aurora Borealis, but also minute details: the ticking of clocks running out of control, Laura Martin’s flutes bubbling, fingers scraping on strings, the typewriter clack on “Rolling Thunder” leading into Hannah Peel’s descending trombone line.

Marling’s words weave through surrealist dream states, nodding to Victorian Gothic, her voice now intimate and warm, now diffracting into an audibly unreal fractal choir. “Paint dots on your wrists”, she sings, recalling the lucid dreaming technique. “Curse Of The Contemporary”, which opens with a limber guitar-toned figure and settles into a yacht-rock groove undermined by synth textures of comic thinness, takes a satirical look at West Coast flakery. “If you should be bored in California”, she sings, voice high and brittle, vibrato uncommonly weak, “I’m sure I’m not the first to warn ya . . . keep your wits about you”. The song toughens. “It’s just another vanity.” This album, though, is more than that.

★★★★☆

Lump’ is released by Dead Oceans

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