Yetis haven’t had the best luck in rock. Super Furry Animals’ troupe of shaggy Bigfeet were mercilessly gunned down at their farewell show, and looked somewhat tatty when resurrected for the reunion. John Hassall’s post-Libs band Yeti, despite some cracking psych pop singles, only survived four years in the mid-‘00s. So when Laura Marling and Tunng’s Mike Lindsey claim that their new collaboration LUMP is actually the name of the mottled scarlet Sasquatch shaking its locks around the ‘Curse Of The Contemporary’ video, and that the creature encapsulates the entire project and “will continue to create itself from here”, you worry that it’s got as much chance as Piers Morgan in a public vote for the greatest living Englishman.
On the evidence of this first half hour of LUMP, though, this is one Adorable Snowman that deserves a fighting chance. The result of a chance encounter at a Neil Young aftershow and sessions in Lindsay’s underground London studio, ‘LUMP’ is an absorbing combination of Lindsay’s (largely pre-written) psychedelic drone folk compositions and Marling’s surreal Ivor Cutler-style slant on the facades we all build across our social media walls, and the emptiness behind.
Not that you’d know it from a cursory listen. “You look like a crooner in crisis/Shaking your hips like a tart,” she purrs with a hint of Jock Scott’s snarl on opener ‘Late To The Flight’, a song about a man dreaming of killing off his online persona (it says here) that shimmers and hums with the sombre, immersive artistry of This Mortal Coil, Sufjan Stevens, Keren Ann or The Delgados, complete with more flutes than Bjork can grow in her tropical space shrubbery. Often it’s best to leave the theme to sink in subliminally and just revel in the way Marling’s tremulous vocals lift out of Lindsay’s hypnotic synthetic throb on ‘May I Be The Light’ like a skylark escaping a nuclear waste facility, or how ‘Rolling Thunder’ sounds like something you’d hear in a Blade Runner soul dive.
At root the record is about Marling weaving enticing, dolorous melodies around Lindsay’s hypnotic trips, be they organic (the Afrobeat undertones of ‘May I Be The Light’, the Eastern chimes of ‘Shake Your Shelter’) or glitch-driven (‘Hand Hold Hero’, the sound of a Westworld saloon band malfunctioning). Only ‘Curse Of The Contemporary’, an impression of what Mamas & Papas records would’ve sounded like after taking all of 1968’s LSD, strikes out into playful pop territory, and then only as far as PJ Harvey’s ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ or Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds Of Love’. It ends with a two-minute credit sequence called ‘LUMP Is A Project’, wherein Marling recites the album’s players and personnel over a space-filling drone. Let’s hope this doesn’t catch on – if Beyonce listed all of her songwriters in song at the end of her albums they’d all have to be box-sets – but to round off such a sweetly esoteric record it’s a delightful touch. There might only be rare sightings of LUMP in future, but cherish them; you might not believe your ears.