Sunday, 21 June 2015

Blacklung 'Continental Baths' (EP REVIEW)

Tory-bashing duo BLACKLUNG are something of an enigma; a modest online presence jars with the outspoken political slant of a promo blurb which screams that the Conservatives’ faces are death-tackle, that they stop hearts and “cast anxious shadows and make standing corpses of us.” And that Rage Against the Machine-style roar, Dead Kennedys thrash or even Woodie Guthrie soothsaying you might expect is nowhere to be seen on a four-track EP of self-styled kraut-disco.

It might seem shallow but it’s pointless to pretend that this isn’t a bit of an issue – granted, not all political music needs to be angsty, but at least a shadow of such polemic should surely surface in the lyrics. That’s not the case here, and to be honest, I don’t buy their atmospheric sound as either a musical representation of the bleak picture they paint or as an escape from it. But that’s not to say that the sound itself, divorced from its political millstone, is bad – it’s really quite good.

Like a ghost drifting across a lake, opener ‘Black Bones’ is haunting and mesmerising, and brings a veil of unnatural calm down even as it leaves the listener on edge. Swirling around a space the size of a cathedral, Dan Broomhall’s vocals sound far away, and just as the atmosphere builds to an almost unbearable weight, ‘Pouring Heaven’ takes the pressure away like ripping a plaster off in one quick movement. Sparse and pristine by comparison to its smoky predecessor, it’s led by an insistent bassline which anchors temperamental guitar from James Moffatt on the most conventional cut on the record.

It’s back to outer space on ‘Continental Baths’, which remains focused despite its length (six minutes 43). The first half of the instrumental track feels like a grossly extended intro at first, but a minute in and you learn to sit back and let the warm yet minimal textures wash over you. Similarly the last two minutes feel like an outro making this a thinking man’s track, although one well worth drinking in.

‘The Cure For Love’ is a disarmingly gentle closer, retaining the uneasy ambiance but keeping its rounded corners throughout. Driven by a heartbeat kick drum, and with Broomhall this time apparently delivering his vocals from the bottom of a 20-foot pit, it is exactly the melancholy track its name would suggest. It is the right choice to end the record, too, which is a collection of endearingly misfit songs which flourish when set free. 

Words - Joe Ponting

'Continental Baths' is out on June 26th on Sways Records