Saturday, May 2, 2015

Album Review- Little Red Lung : Beware - A Kaleidoscope of Sonic Stories Traverse Time

The title track Beware from Little Red Lung's upcoming full length album of the same name opens with an ominous drone as a chorale of backing vocals quietly lift Zoe-Ruth Erwin's vocal performance to the forefront. Her presence is as powerful as it is pained and vulnerable. The opening track feels majestic, mysterious and a bit out of this world. It feels like a giant monster awakening and by the second track that monster roars.

That masterful second track is Porcupine Sheet and in my opinion is the signature track on this album but let's step back a bit. The kind of progressive rock that L.A. based Little Red Lung crafts has been mined before and like all great genres it will be mined again. This kind of music that conjures up flash and fantasy and has a pure melodramatic cabaret sense about it would fall into that baroque pop rock label or art rock with experimental rock around the edges. What makes Little Red Lung different than other forms of this musical genre is that they blend in such a mix of progressive rock, orchestral rock, glam and indie sounds. As I listened to this album I thought of Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, The Dresden Dolls, Radiohead, Flo and the Machine and more.  As Rob Hume's dirty bass opens Porcupine Sheet as a tortuous pound, Erwin's over modulated vocals take center stage.  As the time signature changes the song free falls as Ali Nikou's lead lines and Erwin's keys stair step down while John Broeckel highlights each emotional shift with such well placed drum fills. This stair stepping style is repeated throughout the album in spots giving the album a cohesiveness, making it feel like a concept album whether it is intended to be or not. Nikou's guitar work truly shines throughout this entire ambitious project but the melodies he teases out on this track truly captivated me.

Get on the Boat prances with a bottom heavy cello sound (I think courtesy of Hume's ultra heavy and effected bass). Dead Weight shifts from a kind of light free rock sound to a luscious half time chorus and back again. Rock opera comes to mind when I listen to the Bell Tower. It has an art rock appeal and some of the musical melodies made me think of The Beatles and the wide cinematic scope of a Cirque Du Soleil show. Other songs stir other flavors. Civilian Tiger has a mid-eastern sound with faint hints of Andalusian melodies. The musical break is so engaging and mesmerizing and gives away to a spartan intimate end where you only hear Erwin's intimate vocal performance (even if other sounds exist). This track is so encompassing and has such an arc to it's story that it makes you realize what Erwin and the boys have achieved here. This might not be a concept album after all. Instead, each song feels like a concept album unto itself taking you on it's own journey. Each song shape shifts into something else.

Our Ghost truly feels like a fable, like a movie could be written and based on this song alone. It feels like science fiction that is retro and new at the same time. Operate has a decidedly 80's New Wave Romantic feel with it's sultry catwalk cadence. A dirty fender Rhodes sound opens Bad Blood. It is a trippy art rock waltz and for me, inhabits this place between Dresdon Dolls and Muse (when they venture into the glam feel). "Beware" ends with Tightwire Spinning and something about it made me think of Lena Lovich circa 1979, at least the upbeat parts. Of course, it does not stay in that mode for very long. Zoe-Ruth Erwin ends the song and the album with yet another side of her multi-faceted vocals. She tends to sing with an almost classical presence and yet here strips that style completely away. In that instant I had the sense that any artful pretense fell away, like the stage actress removed her make up.

On "Beware", Little Red Lung spins a kaleidoscope of sonic stories that seem to traverse time and space. While my musical tastes are pretty eclectic, I can tell you that this kind of art rock has not been (as of late) my normal cup of tea. Over the last few years I have been steeping in the raw immediacy of proto punk, punk pop indie sounds, That being said, Little Red Lung's brew which feels as if it is spiked with absinthe is a trip well worth taking.
Robb Donker

In anticipation of Beware. Little Red Lung is releasing one track off the album monthly. Experience track one (Beware) below:

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