While it wasn’t exactly a perfect album, LUST’s debut full-length from last year, ‘Tekesima’, was something of a high-water mark for contemporary Malaysian “indie”. After an enjoyable, if shaky, debut EP, the band found their footing on ‘Tekesima’, turning in a confident, catchy, and intelligently crafted set of songs that cemented their place as a band to take seriously.
A year on, the duo of Azfar Bakar and Faris Khairi return with a new six-track EP, ‘Vantablack’. Named after the substance developed by Surrey NanoSystems that’s considered one of the darkest substances to ever exist—it absorbs 99.965% of visible light—it’s the work of a band that’s deftly avoided musical stagnation, a genuine risk given the near-universal acclaim for ‘Tekesima’.
This isn’t to say that LUST have totally abandoned what worked so well for them on ‘Tekesima’; their sense of melody is as sharp as ever, and there’s no mistaking ‘Vantablack’ for the product of any other band. But what sets the EP apart is the way Azfar and Faris have pushed their sound forward, embracing a jammier and arguably more psychedelic sound that isn’t afraid to let the music do more of the talking.
If ‘Tekesima’ relied strongly on LUST’s penchant for anthemic melodies, ‘Vantablack’ shows a band that’s found a better balance between their melodicism and their instrumental work. It’s not to say that the music has been lacking in the past: ‘Tekesima’ highlight ‘Good to Know’, particularly its middle section, certainly comes to mind here. But ‘Vantablack’ more enthusiastically embraces the expressive possibilities of extended instrumental passages, and the result is their most satisfying material so far.
Multi-instrumentalists Azfar and Faris work together wonderfully, combining guitars, synths and samples into multi-layered tapestries. From jagged post-punk chords to soaring lead lines and subtle electronics, both cover a broad spectrum without ever sounding out of their depth. The fact that this is all in service of melodious, catchy music, and anchored by the tight, hard-hitting percussion of guest drummers Omar Aiman and Harris Aziz makes for generally delightful results.
Take the title track, for example. A lot of bands would kill for a melody as effortlessly infectious as the one LUST has come up with here; it’s woozy and immediately memorable, the sort of thing that keeps playing in your head long after the song ends. But what keeps rewarding multiple listens is the second, mostly instrumental half, with its layers of fuzzy guitar, flowery bass figures, and confident build-up to the triumphant return of the main melody.
Penultimate track and other highlight ‘Super Trial’ is another example of this winning strategy. Its lengthy, sinewy post-punk intro is a thoroughly enjoyable two minutes that wouldn’t sound out of place on a prime Foals cut, and the way it effortlessly steps into perfectly-executed 2000s anthemic indie territory is impressive. It bears repeated listens – which, really, could be said of the whole EP: there’s no fat on ‘Vantablack’, and even the low-key introduction to opener ‘Liminal’ and the reverb-washed lull of ‘What We Said’ are compelling in their subtle details and evocative moods. The fact that you’ll have every song on the EP stuck in your head for days is simply the icing on the cake.
The promotional copy for ‘Vantablack’ asks: “Can we absorb external energies without compromising our inner values?” On the evidence of the 20 minutes of music on this EP, LUST’s answer is a resounding “yes”, as they’ve managed to push themselves forward to embrace new musical styles without abandoning what made them so loved in the first place. That’s not something just any band is able, or even willing, to do. Only time will tell where LUST goes from here, but for the moment, ‘Vantablack’ is proof, if more were needed, that they are the real deal.
- Release date: December 3
- Record label: Sanctuary