Full disclosure: for anyone at their first proper gig post lockdown, the drumbeat could be off, the singer totally out of tune or the performance only five minutes long, and they would still be thrilled to bits just to be amidst a throng of sweaty, pint-sipping music lovers after an almost two-year break from the live music circuit. As it happens, LUMP – the genius pairing of Mike Lindsay of Tunng with the supreme talent that is Laura Marling – knocked it out of the park at London’s Scala with the last of a recent run of gigs presenting brand new collab record Animal.
Marling’s evolution as an ever more accomplished and self-possessed artist has been a sight to see: from quietly confident pub gigs in Leeds (ahead of debut release Alas, I Cannot Swim in 2008) to launching 2017’s Semper Femina album to great fanfare at HMV on Oxford Street. What a delight, then, to witness her reincarnated once more by combining forces with Lindsay.
In contrast to Marling’s signature folksy ballads, uber-feminine vibes, stripped-back sonics and an earnest, if laidback, sensibility, LUMP brings something totally other: playful, psychedelic-infused, experimental and, at times, all-out heavy rock.
From the get-go, mic stands adorned with candy floss-hued chiffon to match flourishes worn by the performers signalled this to be a fun-loving, otherworldly performance that had the audience transfixed. The smoke-filled, colour-lit Scala stage cast the band in a light that looked straight out of an 80s music video, while Marling’s styled blonde locks and outfit exuded 70s chic. Mike Lindsay looked mostly like an infectiously energetic kid playing with his favourite toys as he set to work on his electronic keyboards and equipment to manipulate sounds in weird and wonderful ways.
After a slightly excruciating half-hour wait on an unexpectedly sweltering September evening, all was forgiven as Marling, Lindsay and band launched into Bloom at Night. That was followed up with the bulk of the tracks from the new album, such as Gamma Ray and Animal, before a brief return to their acclaimed 2018 eponymous debut with Rolling Thunder, the brilliant Curse of the Contemporary and Shake your Shelter. To see out the performance, it was new album closer Phantom Limb.
It was refreshing to hear Marling’s ethereal vocals put to completely different use, demonstrating their versatility as she moved from abstract spoken word to soaring notes on the likes of Gamma Ray, with many a catchy melody in between.
A definite highlight were the lyrics – often quirky, sometimes dark, nonsensical yet strangely apt, one can feel a sense of Marling being liberated from the confines of the niche she’s carved out for herself as an individual artist, and letting her creativity run a bit wilder.
On Animal, the singer’s insistent tongue-in-cheek chant of “Dance, dance / This is your last chance / To break a glass heart / Just like you wanted” became satisfyingly hypnotic. Things got brilliantly foreboding and creepy on the most out-there moment of the gig in Paradise, with Marling’s storytelling tendencies taking a Thriller-eque turn (“You clocked a master on the bus / The object of some ancient lust”). The childlike repetitive rhyme in closing track Phantom Limb (“Tote bag saying ‘Viva Prostitution’ / Described once as ‘barely Lilliputian,’”) over deliciously woozy guitars drew the audience in one last time before leaving its ominous final line lingering in the air – the gently posited, “We have some work to do”. Is “we” the band? British society? The human race…? That was left to the crowd to decide.
What a welcome back to into the live music world. Magic, joyful and transporting stuff.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 7th September 2021.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information and future events visit LUMP’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Animal here: