Think of a horror film, think of the moment before the beast is revealed and you will say - They are here...... This is what I think when I heard that Lucy Stoner were about to release something again, but not in a shriek of horror or pain, being scared to look into the darker corners of my music collection. No, I was glad to hear that these cats were releasing something else as I loved their last release (the wonderful and outlandish 'Who Is Lucy Stoner' (cleverly linked here)); that release is one of the craziest releases I have had the honour to review and it also started a brilliant friendship with Sweet Sounds Records. This album was released in May 2016 and due to one thing or another I have just managed to get around to reviewing this now, after I got a tape of the album and my tape player decided to meet its maker. But I have been furnished with a digital copy of this release which was recorded in November last year and follows the improvisation that made their first album so special (if only I could get these guys and Waheela together in a room). However, this is fantasy show booking and not looking at the album, time to get that straight.
The first of the four tracks is called "The Brotherhood of Dad Vs. Lucy Stoner" which starts with a long drone horn as if we are being gathered for pray or for some sort of meeting of the clan. This keeps building very slowly and thoroughly with various layers (strange chants, rising and dipping synths, a pulsing bass, more sounds than you can throw at a mad mongoose, etc) to make an utterly hypnotic and mesmerising sound. The song mutates throughout and keeps that striking pulsation that gels it all together with all the grace of the likes of Sunn 0))) and Goblin. When it picks up a gear, it is done in a subtle way and the noise just keeps getting better and before you know it the song is retreating and it is sadly over with the feedback ringing in your ears. Quite possibly my favourite drone number of the year and that is in a year with new Sunn 0))) as well, I cannot give this song any higher compliment than that.
"Hey Paul, I Can See Your House from Here....." starts out in feedback and subtle noise, like a drifting vortex of sound as the notes slowly begin to form around you. This becomes the pattern for the song as it is all enthral noises, drifting sounds, glorious light touches of vocals and feedback that is kept together by the heartbeat of the bass. The track is not as intense as "The Brotherhood of Dad Vs. Lucy Stoner", but that is something of a relief as it shows a different side to the noise. What it does is let you drift in the void a little, it is actually quite relaxing (in a given sense to the word relaxing, we are taking about a noise track and I know I can be a little weird with this stuff). It is the light to the dark of the previous track and takes you further down the path towards who-knows-where.
"Everyone Needs an Audience for Their Funeral" takes a different direction here, from the beginning the recording is clearer without as much feedback (but you can always feel it lingering in the background, awaiting the moment to pounce). It is back to the drone in one way, but there is hints of industrial to the drumming here, the accurate and focused nature of the bass and that slightly out of earshot chanting is also a brilliant and fascinating combination of sounds. I love the way that you cannot actually focus on anything else as you never want to miss anything that is coming, such as when the extra percussion kicks in around the six minute mark, the spoken word section that you are straining to hear with the feedback swallowing up some of the words, the rising synths that sounds like the background to a brief love story in a horror movie, the slight dip and fade as the looping noise takes over with the sound like you are on a fairground ride and you are about to be sick, the harsh and clear guitar sound that cuts through like a knife, the way it starts to fall apart with a slightly sinister edge towards the end - it all requires your total and utter focus. It is a challenging song and make no mistakes about it, you have nineteen minutes of droning noise that is a demanding mistress and is unforgiving as well. It is wonderful, long and intense - to paraphrase when people see Ace Rimmer in the BBC/Dave TV Show 'Red Dwarf' - What a track!
Ending the album is "Autumn Leaves (Jesus Doesn't)" which is the shortest song of the album. It begins with the loose guitar riff and is soon joined by a heavy, but light set of drumming (stay with me on this one) which is driven by the sound of brushes on the drums and it is all very organic and tribal. The chanting gives it another edge and the snippets of conversations and backwards sounding noises only adds to the textures of the noise. It always seems to be on the edge of lift off, but it seems to be holding back a little and at the end it becomes something else and it drifts towards the end of hearing - basically you need it to be loud for the full picture. Of all the songs on here, it does not quite reach the levels of the rest of the album, but it is still a damn fine track and bring the curtain down on this record.
I love this album, I really love the noise that comes out of the speakers and the growth since their last record. It is focused, hard hitting and something which you can truly lose yourself in for an hour and not care if it repeats for another hour after that. It is a rare beast that takes a band into a totally different place and it is a wonderful step for the band. Apart from one song which does not quite reach the level of the rest of the album, it is a very strong contender for my drone record of the year, due to the mark below it will be in the running for our album of the year if it gets enough votes. I do think if these guys ever played a show with Waheela, it would be the best drone/improvised show ever. Do yourself a favour, go to the Sweet Sound Records Bandcamp and purchase it now!
9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost......
Top track - The Brotherhood of Dad Vs. Lucy Stoner
You can purchase and stream The Mirror Is a Personal Hell on the Sweet Sounds Records Bandcamp page here
You can follow the activities of Lucy Stoner on Facebook here