Album Review: LUMP - 'Animals'

LUMP is the collaborative project of folk singer songwriter Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay, co-founder and producer of pioneering folktronica band Tungg. Now the abstract band release their sophomore album 'Animals'. Elliot Fox gives his interpretation.

In 2018, LUMP released their self-titled debut, an intelligent experimental record with flowing, organic textures and wistful lyricism. Lindsay and Marling generated something so refreshing; a truly genre defying album. It was therefore both exciting and a little anticlimactic to hear that on their follow up record Animals, LUMP would be doubling down on this sound. Those same haunting woodwinds, glitchy arpeggios and chorused bass hits are present throughout the new album, and it’s an effective combination. However, the reluctance of LUMP to explore a significantly new sound on Animals is, for such an abstract project, a missed opportunity, and somewhat detracts from the novelty of that unique first record.

Animals is, however, an immaculately constructed album. Mike Lindsay is meticulous in his production of each exotic soundscape, and the tracks flows into the next cleverly and seamlessly. At the end of somber ballad Red Snakes for example, Laura’s “and youuu…” is sustained to provide a backing drone for the synthetic arpeggios of the dark, deflated track Paradise - a definite highlight. Mike’s breath-taking attention to detail is enough reason to justify listening to the record by itself. From the subtle, atmospheric water noises of Oberon to the immense, layered percussion of title track Animal, Lindsay spares no effort to bring the world of LUMP to life.

"The lyrics of LUMP are all by Laura Marling, who writes with astonishing, raw character"

LUMP, in fact, is not just the name of the band but also a large fluffy imaginary monster who appears on the cover of their first album and nearly all of the band's music videos. This album sees LUMP speaking in the form of Laura’s voice fed through an Eventide H949 harmonizer, which is most famously used on David Bowie’s Low. “Excuse me, I don’t think we’ve been introduced”, announces LUMP’s unnerving voice in the second track of the album, Gamma Ray. For music which lacks an easily recognisable narrative, it was a smart move to introduce this main character. The monster suits the playful tone of the album, and appears later with some hard-panned backing vocals on groovy banger We Cannot Resist.

The lyrics of LUMP are all by Laura Marling, who writes with astonishing, raw character. The first track title, Bloom At Night is a reference to a Sigmund Freud quote “A flower that blooms at night is no less lovely than its sun loving relative” - undoubtedly inspired by Marling’s masters degree in psychoanalysis, which she enrolled in last year. Unfortunately, the unfiltered approach to lyric writing can sometimes become wearing. The imagery here is fantastic, but each image is completely unrelated to the last, and this lack of storytelling ultimately means that moments of emotional intensity are few and far between on the album.

A strong feeling of self indulgence runs throughout Animals, and it’s easy to imagine that Laura and Mike had a lot of fun producing the album. Marling says herself that working on the album provided an escape from her more serious solo work and persona; that being part of LUMP is “like putting on a superhero costume”. This comes across in Laura’s more endearing poetry in songs such as We Cannot Resist and the title track Animal, which also happen to have some of the strongest hooks on the record.

The album ends with Phantom Limb, complete with a sprawling, guitar based instrumental palette; triumphant and melancholic in it’s sound. Laura softly delivers a chorus of “We have some work to do” over the messy composition in 7/4, and it really suits. The lyric is likely some sort of criticism of society, although Marling is being far too abstract to really target any particular issue. The song then ends with LUMP’s now signature album outro, a spoken list of credits for all the people that contributed to the project. Laura claims that she chose the lyrics for the track randomly, but in a way Phantom Limb seems to have the clearest message of any song on Animals: the world is messed up, and what we are doing about it is giving artists the credit they deserve.

Written by: Elliot Fox

Edited by: Joe Hughes

In article images courtesy of LUMP via Facebook. Video courtesy of LUMP via YouTube.