Critically acclaimed artist LoneLady is bringing her ‘tour-de-force of punch-and-crunch electro, r’n’b and pop’ blend to The Smokehouse, Ipswich on Friday 21st October.
As LoneLady, Julie Campbell achieves a certain paradox: quiet maximalism. She makes music firmly in the post-punk tradition, but unlike many landfill nu-New Orders doing the same, her work is expansive, not reductive. Time and again, she likens her work to psychogeography, what she’s called an “edgeland”: the information overload of memories, possibilities, and associations beneath any patch of ground. The shudders and spikes of her music convey a world that’s threatening in its sharpness, like it’s got an AR overlay. The maximalism isn’t big-picture, but granular: busy, hyperreal instants by the millions.
Campbell’s debut, 2010’s Nerve Up, was tense and cerebral, each song sounding about to snap. The 2015 follow-up Hinterland projected that tension out onto her Manchester hometown: confronting reminders of the city’s industrial past in every imposing or abandoned building, then projecting onto them her own bygones.
“I actually like things crumbling into disrepair and ruin,” she told NME. “I still daydream about owning a big, crumbling mill. I wouldn’t renovate it: I’d just let it crumble slowly around me.” But not only mills can crumble. Former Things dwells on interior and exterior threats, but especially on those found in memory. Nothing is just itself; everything Campbell sees contains loss and has room for more. The album was recorded at a former rifle-shooting range, and every song sounds like she’s still anticipating the guns.
Originally envisioned as a techno album and recorded on vintage synths, Former Things is packed with Campbell’s busy, weaponized arrangements. The lyrics, too, are deliberate and dense—she’s one of those uncommon songwriters whose words work equally well on paper. On past albums she’s delivered her lyrics staccato and frantic, as if the thoughts were coming urgent and fast. On Former Things, the way she exerts control—clipping her voice short, making it ricochet—has a way of mimicking digital quantization via old-fashioned vocal cords. “(There Is) No Logic,” in particular, sends her voice out into a playground of sampling and echoing.
Any playgrounds here, though, are haunted. The business of the arrangements is Campbell’s way of crowding out “threats—everywhere I look, everywhere I turn.” This is the chorus of “Threats,” and in the breaks in the arrangement are ad-libs that sound like echoes of grinding teeth. On “Fear Colours,” Campbell gives herself watery, distorted backing vocals that sound more metallic than human. The samples are harsh and cutting like intrusive thoughts—one recurring sound is a buzzing razor. The title track comes closest to levity, but it, too, is about mourning childhood. The cinematic strings in the chorus could almost be dreamy, if they weren’t interrupted and cut off by the polyrhythmic tremors of the arrangement—constant reminders of what’s crumbled and ruined.”
– Katharine St. Asaph, Pitchfork, Reviewing ‘Former Things’