Lapis Lazuli 2020
Improvising on-stage and in the studio, Canterbury modernists rope in CAN warbler for a joint jaunt to face audience and fly free.
It’s an oxymoron yet “intrepidly cautious” might well be LL’s MO, because they don’t seem to know where the next enterprise will land yet the band embark on it nevertheless; and “cautiously intrepid” might be one of Damo Suzuki’s characteristics, whatever the veteran’s next project will be – chamber or otherwise. When these artists came together to play, in an almost spontaneous manner, any reservations got negated, though, and the double CD documenting their endeavor are a great testament to the musicians’ talent and readiness to go the extra mile in pursuit of transient triumph of spirit.
Live album is presented as a single, hour-long piece to reflect what a collective train of thought, in-the-moment and on-the-spot, the concert was when the English quartet followed the lead of their one-off Japanese-German frontman and went with the flow. The show, as preserved here, turned out to be both passionate and cerebral, befitting the follow-up to the group’s 2018 "Brain" and the vocalist’s proggressive past. Starting out as a delicate sonic glimmer which slowly solidifies and lets Suzuki’s syllabic fancy in – initially a coarse narration rather than a vocal melody – the ensemble form a loose rhythm before Adam Brodigan’s drums deepen the groove and impel Damo to rap and, eventually, sing, as Neil Sullivan and Martin Emmons’s interlocking guitar licks lace the soundscape, so that even if it’s motorik it’s still varied. Up until the gripping gurgling in the finale – helped by Luke Menniss’ incessant bass patterns – there’s a sense of adventure in such a trip into the great unknown, only the blissful, unpredictable yet arresting, process is much more important than its result.
This route was mapped via tuneful puzzles the band – who met Suzuki for the first time on the day of their performance – laid out in preparation to the concert out of the audience’s sights and laid down as “Louis Padilla‘s Muzak Uzi”: an album in itself. It’s a series of shorter numbers, ranging from 60-second intro “Free Haircut” which is laden with sharp riffs, to the 24-minute, two-part epic “Sea’s Harp Apocoly” that’s a sprawling vista of wonder, where pastorale is punctuated with low-end acrobatics. They amount to a slo-mo amplified vibe in “Modern Phenomena” whose suspended rumble has four strings unfold an ever-shifting field. It will be revealed in full in “Abruption” and demonstrate a breathtaking reverberating beauty.
Spiced with percussive pieces and simmering electronica, “Tribe Of Tribes II” marries urgent momentum to relaxed musical musing, while the über-funky “James Black Midi” piles up dirt on its pulse, allowing dance moves to emerge and dissipate, and “Cheap Minor” takes the brooding beyond the pale and into the hard-rock territory. A menace of different, spaced-out and vibrant, sort fills the increasingly hurried ebb of “Untraceable Customs” – encrusted with crystal droplets shining against thick background cloth – but it only stresses how delicate and detailed this record is.
Occasionally lapsing into cosmic disco or into silence and then baring its metallic edge and fiercely swaying towards eternity, the double album is sporadically opulent in a minimalist way, yet never sparse and never repetitive, despite certain patterns transpiring towards its end(s). Both of its facets may feel disconcerting at first, but the listeners who approach the records without prejudice and submerge in their mood are in for a treat.