WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear
Settled Law Records
LP | CD | DL
In the face of the age of the incorporeality of all things, in this gutter of a life we are dragged through on a daily basis; behold the debut album from Bristol’s LICE; WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear. A band that has quickly established itself as possessing all the intrinsic, integral post-punk criteria; but reconfiguring the nature of the modern album format and thus, upon taking such a risk to release a Concept as the Debut, successfully assert their position in other, adventurous territories.
”Away! Let us break out since we cannot much longer restrain our desire to create finally a new musical reality, with a generous distribution of resonant slaps in the face, discarding violins, pianos, double-basses, and plaintive organs. Let us break out!”– Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noises, 1913.
So, let us break away and forsake and forge forth, or be tranquilised, blinded, and buried alive under the weight of these great avalanches of a damn past gone daft. And let us bend and let us question and change and push forward or have our ankles ensnared by the sizzling teeth of some dark trap in the tall grass.
In the face of the age of the incorporeality of all things in this gutter of a life we are dragged through; behold the debut album from Bristol’s LICE, who have been getting a great deal of attention lately. A 2018 stint on the road with Idles for the promotion of their Brutalist album; who then released LICES’ EPs, It All Worked Out Great (Vol 1+2), on their own Balley Records imprint; amongst a host of shows and stages shared with The Fall, Fat White Family, Bad Breeding, Squid, Shame, and Psychic TV.
An album which approaches and impresses the senses, attacking them from all sensory angles (badges, a booklet containing the overarching narrative to the concept they narrate with noise-sound, a piece of invented machinery); and as a clever homage to the Futurist thinkers, authors, and artists of the early 1900s.
It’s an utter joy to not just observe, but immerse oneself in the philosophies of those visionary figures (Russolo in particular) that encouraged a total dislocation from the tired, paltry traditions of what trite, musical life preceded them as a way to wash away the boredom which thickly coats the eyes but deception is laced as a pretty, thin veil.
And instead; profess the existence of Noise; a New noise, a Now noise, noticeable if you look closely with your ears against the rails, rigged and equipped and pricked upwards to the sky, a sound natural to the mad chatter of pulsating, industrial cities, the throb and throng of the bloodied mob, all bored and aboard and absorbed within this mechanical insect shell of public transport, the various overlapping scutters shuffling throughout the wheels of the deep belly, the slamming fist against the supermarket shutters, thrilling to the point we fall over beside the miles of laughing, passing cars; the motorway cascades, and the zooming, scooting metropolitan cruisers, intermixed and swinging from the screws and shoots and pipes of the dust and mud and blood and guts of this tough, expansive, urban encompassment.
So, let LICE unveil to us their musical experiment, their conceptual equivalent to their spirit of the fucking people soliciting them to look at their own spaces, their own streets, their own skies a little differently next time. All attacked, assimilated, and rearranged in their spectacle, their satire, their fierce, politicised noise, their reason why.
The notions of a 21st-century, universal wasteland are only a neighbouring idea to the grotesque stretches of luxury apartments, the salons and supermarkets, the real ale bars and chic, bohemia boutique; unwillingly affixed to the worn, weary high-rise and drained swimming pools; with every inch of developmental city limb, grown more against and attached to the dilapidated, enfeebled skeletons of yesterdays proposed industrial flourishments, forgotten during the headaches and hangovers of history.
This is the soundtrack to a story. A world merely a scratch away from actuality. One which takes us to; or wakes us up in The Wasteland. A strange ”liminal space populated by structures and half-conscious people from the real world’’. A world inspired by the T.S Eliot story of the same name. A concept, or ”an unnatural and urgent voyage through living prose’’, including characters not unlike the kinds we encounter on a daily basis (shape-shifters, time-travellers, talking genitalia, ectoplasmic spectres, etc.).
This narrative is split into two sections: The Intervention; which focuses on the relationship between a couple of characters called Dr. Coehn (convincingly evil in his propositions that the end of evil arrives when man ”takes better care of each other” – ”the tools for peace laid before ye: the murderous, hatred human gene”) and The Conveyor, whilst also focusing on their interferences in the fate of humanity and their interpretations of what it can do, of where it can go. The latter section of this trip: The Dissolution, pays attention to the dissolution of the Wasteland through these destructive, godhead interventions.
It’s complex, and it’s clever and it’s cool. Perhaps all we really needed was a post-punk group from Bristol to publish the fucking documentation and produce the fucking music to show us what we have all be sold and forced to swallow like warm milk and wicked, bitter pills.
And in spite of the sheer, intellectual density the album is conceptually steeped in, it does so in ways that make it enjoyable, accessible, and able to appreciate the Gesamtkunstwerk as it was always intended to be absorbed as – a seamless piece of art: an album folks. With underlying principles resonating on overarching levels.
But for the fussy buggers out there, quick to catch the point of the song before its subject matter catches you, who can satisfyingly separate the style from the substance, the ease at which the surface is peeled away from all those surreal, sumptuous, serious, erudite and opulent layers, with multitudinous meanings that applies torturous volts of pressurising madness to the old frontal lobes; the album comes packed in the pants with a barrage of brilliant, thick, intricate riffs – elaborate jams, dark magic, black math and mad rant galore.
And we enjoy things exploding in our faces; something monstrous and irresistible melting the metalwork, seered by the delicious heat and singed the tips by this formidable demonstration of how, now as counterpoints; Shellac and Subway Sect, Membranes and Magma, The Fall and Flipper, pre-1975 Kraftwerk and Liquid Liquid are seen smoking the same dose of opium from the cavities of the Great black Pyramid.
Cause it’s okay to have fun right? If you answer Yes. Fine. The singles were Conveyor, Arbiter, and R.D.C – download them, add them to your playlist, and go running. If you answered No; hats off to you. You consider thinking to be fun.
And this is an album to think of.
LTW: I don’t want to talk about how you formed, or what your influences might be, but I’m more interested in discussing the concept you have come up with and why. It’s a risky move to make for your debut album. And I’m intrigued. What the hell were you thinking?
Silas Dilks (guitar): What could go wrong?
Alistair Shuttleworth (Vocals): I feel like we’ve never talked about this actually…on record. Initially, they were recorded not long after we formed the band. We’d probably been playing those songs for a bit less than a year. Maybe less than that. We initially thought that was going to be an album. In the sense that we had that, and another couple of songs that we thought were also fine. So, we would’ve had 10, 12 songs. A few sorts of things happened. We didn’t get round to releasing it as an album. Then we got the opportunity to do it as the double EP (It All Worked Out Great). By the time we came round to write this new music we also had stuff this old stuff in the lockup for so long. It felt like we were ready. I feel like generally if you’re in a band and you start out it takes a while to feel like you want to do a big concept project. We wanted it to be like one, tight, coherent idea with a manifesto.
This is a group with its own agenda. An agenda which includes elevating ”the satirical song lyric to the highest realms of drama”, aroused by a barbarous flood of phantasmagorical frequencies and forecasts of fierce, fragmented rounds of shotgun electronics, radioactive Jandek meets Jarre meets Jesus and Mary Chain vibrations, and serrated No Wave, with a stinging pinch of vitriolic, watusi massacre.
Because What Could Go Wrong? It’s a fine question. And the answer is everything, and nothing.
So why separate all we can see and hear from all that great, electric nebulae of intent we can experience which swims along the riverbed, able to be alleviated from the text’s imposing, esoteric nature. It’s a means of delivery, a vehicle carrying ideology, a weapon of messages, and sending it straight to the brain, where everything is stylishly assimilated and processed for further use.
Therefore stripping this vast, fictional galaxy premised upon “exploring the hidden inequities of the heart and presenting its transformations”, this fabulous compound of linguistical anecdotes and emotive explosions detailing the “civil war between the wavering brain and the penis’ inhuman pragmatism” of its fruits, is sinful. Because those fruits are not yours to take one bite out of them discard them into the bin.
And this bombast of ideas colourises the warped story we find ourselves hot for. We find our bodies convulsed and collapsing along with a narrative excellently expounded and exclusively captivated by a real banquet of cascading ideas about what noise can do and sound can say and represent and not compromise by a single snippet.
And this, dear friends, really is something that deserves your full attention.
Silhouettes of sentences as a perfect way to expose all the deformities we conceal…to convey the deranged and keep us coming back for more pieces on the plate.
A mighty manuscript for a different history we could all one day be a part of.
A bizarre puzzlement of soliloquies and bursts of conflated imagery; juxtaposing one idea with another, one sentence overlapping another, written backwards and burned with a heavy impression like a dark bruise of deep ink indenting the skin of the naked page of the sacred facsimile.
Along this Conveyor, the single released early last year and now serving as the introduction to their debut, or more accurately – as this conveyor, we are greeted by an elephantine riff the size of a Goya’s Colossus’ giant’s fist. An unstoppable palette of immense, post-industrial psyche-punk noise, spasms of ectoplasmic drama, and between the surreptitious, omnipresent powers that be; caught up between forefinger and thumb, callously, cosmically, crumbled to milligrams of dirt.
The latest single R.D.C swivels and swirls as though limbs are attached to pieces of elasticated strings. It’s a volatile demonstration of Avant-jazz and prog-punk as played by a circle of criminals; an expelling of the demons via yelps of hyperactive sprechgesang and dreaded, hot watts of spectacle and sense of vehemence upon every surrealistic immersion and attempted escape. A mission to reach the edge as endured by a synthesis of drums and bass, behaving as two small masses of Uranium 23 Skidoo held in the delicate hands of Current 93, whilst the rest of the tune gravitates and swells and ebulliates around this mangled, neurotic allegory. Slicing of the spine by some fiery whip, a constant lashing of dynamics with ever fizz and acidic drop of liquid on sleeping sheets of corrugated materials.
As a very literal tribute to the Futurists, the band decided to create their own ‘noise- machine’, a constant, intoning feature threading itself throughout the album. Distressed, hellish, reoccurring drones of their very own intonarumori, their very own Howler device as a mediating container between siren and stringed instrument, scratching against the antics and abstractions of the dark, with every churn of its insides, another noise is unearthed from its innumerable, impossible configurations. And although an invention unlike the other 12 by Russolo and Ugo Piatti, it encompasses a broad spectrum of noises akin to “rumbling Noise”(Rorer) “strident, metallic crashing” (Cracker), due to their similar, basic mode of production and nearly identical in range; thus producing this adhesive, this sense of togetherness throughout its rampage.
LTW: The most appealing thing about the record is that it isn’t half-baked. Like a lot of concept albums or even debut albums; they’re not as fully-formed as what you guys have successfully executed. To the point where you’re absolutely right, there’s a manifesto, and a noise-machine, and a narrative; and coherency to the thing. Do you think that kind of tactile nature of a record is important in an age where, for the most part, it’s all app and android?
Alistair: That’s a very good question. I suppose that’s something that developed organically from the other ideas around the record’s content and concept. It ended up sort of having this weird, physical life where you’ve got a pamphlet and Gareth’s instrument. It ended up exploring some other disciplines that were quite apart from making music. That ended up being a meticulous process. Gareth will be able to tell you how long he spent building the intonarumori and then refining it for when we go on tour.
Gareth Johnson (bass): I mean the process was maybe a month. A month and a bit for the first one for research and construction. But I guess I haven’t thought about that other side to it so much as how the concept extended beyond more than just music. As Ali said it was organic. It wasn’t like we went “the concept’s here, then a pamphlet, then we’re going to build this machine”, it was just through the process of studying and absorbing ourselves in the concept that those things emerged through inspiration and learnings.
LTW: I think that’s the reason why it sounds so coherent and together. The notions that you haven’t all sat there and pressurized yourselves into deliberately developing something like a noise-machine or a pamphlet and that these ideas kind of gravitate quite naturally towards the inquisitive artist type; which is representative of good albums, isn’t it? Where they come to you out of the ethers almost…
A: Yeah, that’s very kind of you. I mean I don’t know about the other guys but it’s weird how all that kind of stuff followed as a by-product of making the album.
LTW: What was the kind of the point of the noise-machine anyways? In my mind, it kind of provides this seam or thread throughout the album around which the rest of the work gravitates with lots of different styles and shapes going on and attacking you from all angles. Then you have this thing…was it a purely Futurist derived thing?
Silas Dilks (guitar): So, I guess from the Futurist perspective, their rationale for creating such an instrument was because the factories and the noises of the process of industrialisation had accumulated itself amongst the populations to the extent the population would welcome such noises in popular music. So that’s one element of industrial. The other element is the music we were listening to. So, we were creating these noises with our instruments. So, there were these two threads with an instrument designed to replicate the noises of industrialisation and another being interested in industrial music. And then we found that when we created the machine, we had some idea of the kinds of noises it makes; the manifesto had sort of rumblings and cracklings; so we knew it made these kinds of noises. It became apparent really quickly, that when we started playing with it, that actually the kind of noises that this machine was making was actually fairly similar to the noises we were trying to make with our own instruments already. I think that that’s partly why you say you can hear this coherence to it. Because we were trying to get to the same place but from a very different angle. Suddenly rather than have this new instrument and work out how to wrap it into whatever we were doing, actually, it was already trying to do the same thing as us, and we suddenly had a new way of doing it, which is why I think it flows so nicely.
Like light, noise is a guide. It holds things together; it runs throughout the vexed nest of instruments and ideas levitating and cascading at all times. And as a guide, it is unique to those who allow it to lead us; distinct in its spirit from what noises interpolate us when conjured, interlaced, sliced up, and penetrating another.
Therefore, tunes like Espontáneo epitomise Russolo’s Art of Noise from 1913 by its inclusion of those minimal, mechanical ticks and clicks like fingers tapping an antique, wooden desk, like metallic poles dragged against a stretch of iron palisades, as a fitting reference to that wonderful, constant Noise; amongst a host of others composed different voltages and vibrations, embedded in the organs of a weird city which radiates with contrapuntal kinds of life depending on what side of the day you exist on.
A Noise which binds, and permeates, and therefore also, quickly grows bored, of daily life’s enduring designs and archaic banalities; a hospitable furnace of primary material, out of which we can forge our own desired tones, particular timbres, and rhythms, in the centre of a city, at the edge of ourselves, fascinated by the contours of a concrete simulacrum; their very own Ideological State Sonata.
LTW: When everybody could kind of breathe, and move, how do you operate in a rehearsal space then, either ordinarily or when preparing this album in particular? Is there a riff that gets introduced into the mix or some preconceived idea about the direction or something…
G: Do you mean just like new music we’re writing?
LTW: Yeah, yeah. Let’s just go for the writing process. I’m intrigued about how you get from 4 individuals to producing this thing and getting it out there…during that 2 years of making which was laborious and enjoyable equally, how does it develop and unwind?
A: I think the first thing would be: this album was entirely written basically in the Old England in Bristol, a pub, and music venue. We played it a couple of times and where we hung out. Bruce basically helmed it, took on managing the place, and consolidating it as a locus of good, local music. The main space was Bruce’s room, and the pool room in Old England, which was quite nice because it’s a bigger space with a lot of reverb. I remember we had been practising in Bruce’s room which to prevent noise complaints, Bruce had constructed this wooden shutter which he put up so we could play basically in the darkness which could be quite stuffy so we could go to the pool room and practice there. Silas was playing around with a tremolo arm. I left to make a cup of tea. I came back down and the three of them had basically written Arbiter. That was the nice end of it just happening, organically. There were other songs that the guys will go into.
Bruce Bardsley (drums): Earlier bits kind of went… individual parts mushed together, stuff that worked was kind of kept, and then a lot of stuff was kind of thrown away.
S: I think Ryan earlier you commented on other albums and how their process can sometimes appear out of the ether. There is always some idea which sparks. I know that other bands might have a process where they are directly inspired by another piece of music or one person, they arrive, and everyone learns it. For us, it was very much more of a small motif. One of us would write some kind of motif on their instrument or in an elaborate jam. Which would then all hone in on. And repeat the process and slowly building the song. This was at the start of the album but toward the end, we had pigeonholed ourselves into what would be an acceptable sound for different parts of the album. The song Persuader was the last song on the album and for a while, we knew we wanted a song in that style, but because our tastes had moved on independently from what would fit that hole it meant it became a fairly laborious process in the sense that we were trying to put our heads back in a place where we could have written a song like that. There was a lot of back and forth. The way we solved it was, I went back on my computer and found a piece of music I had written when I was in that place, and we did it out loud and adapted it from a drumbeat Gareth had written when he was in that space for it to come together. That was an unorthodox approach to this album, it was mainly just an idea and really hammering it out.
LTW: In order to get to the headspace where you’re at now you kind of had to revert back, to previous instances where things just seemed to maybe make more sense.
S: yeah exactly. And I think in that meantime you do learn something and it means more by the time you come back to it.
The album feels like flowing along; or falling through- Something. From the aforementioned standout single Arbiter which suddenly emerged through the miracles of musical happenstance, birthed in this way as a brutal, stampeding burst of thrashing post-punk enthrallment which kicks us into the grips of oblivion. To Persuader. An unnerving journey down dystopian, electronic corridors. Science-fiction materialised to real life with an utterly intoxicating loose-screw and hot-glue groove intertwined between bass and guitars and drums, tangled, and mangled which play different things at different times, but simultaneously creating something holistic and analogous. A consistent hit of something sharp and sudden in a landscape of collapsing new buildings.
It works on different levels that we find familiar, and although fictional, resonate with and reverberate throughout these immense chambers and corridors of the modern world we wake up to and walk through as idiots flicking the switch. Because once upon a time, intellect was sexy, and concept albums were given the time of day as an exercise of cerebral stimulation rather than something to download and shuffle.
And here, for these post-punk polymaths expand and unpack those visionary ideas and rejuvenate them with scrupulous aplomb; admirable for its juxtaposition of one style to another; Appolonion approaches art and poetry as a means of revealing the Dionysian intent, and oh so admirable for seeing to the amicable positioning of Beat, Futurist, and Marx on the same plane as a tremendous fleshing out of such foods for thought; which always returns to this motion of visualising a certain Wasteland during the first few hours of any waking day.
With its own cinematography, its own manifesto, its own manual, its own folklore, a beautiful booklet meditating upon and imaginatively articulating the ebbs and flows of life’s tiresome fugue. That thing which must “lose its own accidental character” to successfully become an “element sufficiently abstract”2, in order for it to permeate the “necessary transfiguration of every primary element” in the material of art”. And above all, curious at what can be done with noise: that axiom of abstraction as a state of infantility, and from here, we fantastically transform noise into what we please; foaming at the mouth with a button to push, a bow for the string, a bullet for the gun, a key teasing the ignition, and we get on with it in as the masters of some desired sound shapes and speeds and temperatures.
Because, in true Futurist fashion, where things should be put to bed or buried alive, be it those atrocious metropolitan orchestras priming humankind for a sensation which never seems to arrive; where everything can and must be challenged, and everything is consumed with a pinch of salt which makes the edges of real-life appear less sharp. Although they lacerate the skin from every angle; a whimsical curiosity which keeps us coming back for more – the discovery of new melodic details, the stumbling upon new sentiments in sentences that we glance over at first sight but come to affix to every waking hour as the official doctrine of the Wasteland and its ardent overview of all which ails and irks its characters.
Concept albums are weird, tricky “little” (big), things. And this group have gone to the nth degree to not back out of what concept albums; what even albums on their lonesome can accomplish if the artistic will is primed to experiment, express, be involved, and evolve, etc. And not, despite the boggling size of something so silent yet so loud, sold as so simple, and yet used as so complex, far-reaching in its radius of interconnection; its paradoxical rumour of togetherness in the age of isolation and inexorable law of technological tyranny and post-Brexit musicultural bankruptcy: compromise.
Not some half-arsed, kind-of, quasi-concept album as though someone haphazardly reads something into its subtext and then, because of this underlying discovery; this covert concept brought to the surface, miraculously declares it to be conceptual as a muffled, muttering of such under one’s breath during a topical line of questioning.
But this is anything but that.
This an actual, obvious concept album, with a multiplex of meanings bleeding below, buzzing above, and humming from, all the corners of its demonic, scholastic landscape.
And all of which on their debut album too; how joyous; how mischievous, how inspired, how sophisticated, and how utterly, playfully, politically, poetically essential whilst, to be convenient, to be lazy, on this lingering, hellish, cheap date stench of subscription service etiquette; is reason enough to warrant an execution for their repugnant cluelessness about what can be achieved when the extremes are acquired and the tunes are good.
The work is worth more than your subscription service.
This is their debut. And it’s a debut that takes risks by virtue of being a concept album. A concept album, in the midst of the now-not-so-recent, but the increasingly intoxicating and undoubtedly important surge of modern post-punk: “the punk rise”; but an album also, if viciously representative of their desire to stand apart from everyone else; a discrepancy in this “rise”, like a wonderful sore thumb; a delicious thorn in the side; to wrestle with the heavy wires of what “scene2 means – as life sentence; as coffin nail; as the paradigm for the edgy, existential playlist (Faves, Classics, The Sound of, Uniquely…Whose?). But also be proud of what their hometown has to offer a genuinely juicy root of multicultural and multidisciplinary musical groups. Not so much revival, so much as, a reinvention of things, a reimagination of terms.
LTW: What does the concept of a scene mean to you guys?
A: As a musical scene?
LTW: Yeah. Because although you’re from Bristol it seems to me you’re going above and beyond those typified boundaries of what is often, incorrectly referred to as punk or post-punk music. And you’re providing people with more than just a record, but there’s this other world that people can dip into. So, what do you think about this idea of a scene, and not just drawing from your own experiences of that Bristol locus, but generally speaking, how groups are clumped into the same stew and categorized as being one thing, as belonging to something like Scene?
A: That’s a very good question. I think certainly our experiences of the past in the last couple of years around the time of writing Wasteland are characterised by this tension that we felt with the more natural environment that we had in Bristol, being around this community of ours at the Old England. Doing a lot of very aggressively, eclectic things; in electronic music, in industrial. Our friends SCALPING and stuff, which is very, very different to us. But there’s a tension between that, and his imposed community that we experienced basically being a punk band on the punk circuit. Where we were, I guess, mentioned a lot in articles, with bands, that we either like didn’t feel that much of an affinity with, or, at worst; like actively just felt ourselves very different to. So, I feel like there’s different interpretations of scene. Where people might think of it as being defined by a set of aesthetic parameters, or it’s a kind of kinship and people just knowing each other. Even if what they’re doing might not bear much resemble sonically. The latter is definitely what we experienced in Bristol. When we started, we didn’t know any punk bands. We knew good punk bands. Like IDLES. But that’s not a huge indication of the company we keep there. What do you guys think?
Bruce Bardsley (drums): Yeah: from looking at our Spotify, it’s kind of like the related artists. It’s not really what we sound like. I think that’s because we toured with them earlier on when we first started.
LTW: I think the band’s often got the short end of the stick when they have put a lot of work and time and attention into something which is obviously quite close to them, but because of these algorithms that kind of develop and curate and encourage people’s tastes into one particular pocket out of acts of convenience really, it kinds of sells the band short a little bit. You get yourselves and what SCALPING are doing which are incredibly idiosyncratic groups but get lumped into this kind of post-punk bracket, at the same time. Which is strange, it’s weird how it works. You’re from that world. But a variant in it as well you know?
B: I think that’s a kind of ‘stage’. I don’t know. Once you become more recognised for your sound, maybe the algorithm updates.
LTW: Yeah…maybe by the time you get to the third concept album and you get filed under post-Spotify that might be the day.
For with WASTELAND, LICE metamorphose, and so soon the fuckers. They succeeded in sprouting wings and flying from Bristol’s bright avant-garde, industrial and punk scenes; and with this under their belt, in their arsenal, they manage to encourage one to dig a little deeper below the surfaces of what we sleep in; depleted of meaning when the screen eventually darkens, entombed beneath the hiss and fizz and sandbox of a million flashing lights. The WASTELAND is their Zang Tumb Tuuum 1984, their Naked Lunch or Interzone, their Wandsworth Prison, their Earwig, their Mémoires, their Monkey or Slaughterhouse, their Twilight of the Idols; the One-Dimensional Man experiencing his 4-Dimensional Nightmare.
When you arrive at that moment in your artistic life to pose the question, in the face of the fleeting single and the mindless attachment to all things app – ”What is and the point of an album?’’ you can pretty much do whatever the fuck you like, and with the answer whatever you please. LICE feel the need, this early on, to apply the philosophies of Futurism, who selected Noise, as their desired piece of material; their special subject matter to mould and manipulate into whatever their burgeoning wishes shaped themselves as, in order to create a work of art reactionary, reflective, and representative of, those deep vaults and hosts of ghostly, guttural “naturally” occurring symphonies of the citadel, that spark in the dark, that inversion of perfection, that intuitive vial of acid thrown into the face of the Queen’s English, that unnerving eruption of clamour out of complete, clinical stillness.
And like Russolo; their yogi throughout this mammoth undertaking which took two years to complete; there is a need to murder history, and watch its corpse decompose in the bath; as a requisite to begin again, embryonic as a raw Noise form, the format as something to unfold, the city as origami, the concept as whatever floods through the gates on the other side; with nothing but nothing as an adequate patch of abstraction to unfurl something significant and stimulating from the album as an atom from which all spills. Only to be caught by Serata’s mind-altering spiderweb guitar motif spinning itself around our heads and which gradually perched upon each shoulder and whispering schizophrenic mantras into the ear of the modern, jaded age.
LTW: How are you planning to pull this off live? Are you going to do the whole thing together or bits and pieces or is there a kind of concept for a live show?
S: That’s a good question because we’ve been meaning to have a meeting amongst ourselves about this. In terms of what order we’re going to play the songs in or whatever there are two-stage shows that we need to prepare for. One is the full-album shows at the socially distanced gigs we’re going to be doing in June. We know it’s not just going to be us 4. We know that we need another pair of hands on deck. And we need to work out exactly what we want them to be doing. The other shows are those in November and we need to work out if we need one pair of hands on deck, what mix of old songs and new songs and are we going to being people through the whole range of emotions of the album, or are we going to do a show that you’re used to with a big, aggressive peak. We haven’t really mapped that one out yet.
G: It’s definitely not going to be just us 4. We’re going to be bringing the intonarumori with us. The smaller one. And using that in ways that weren’t even used on the record really. We’ve learned how to play it better I guess since we recorded and more ways used to use it. There are ideas still to explore. It’s going to be interested to be in a proper rehearsal room for a good amount of time with the intonarumori to work out how it’s going to filter into the live set properly. Because we only had, when rehearsing for that BBC session, we just had one day to nail down like three songs…well four songs. So we didn’t have enough time to really explore the scope of the instrument in a live set. Expect that it’s a feature I guess.
LTW: Is this thing going to be a key feature then? Am I going too far to suggest it’s a fifth member I don’t know? But it’s obviously got this presence in the record so I’m intrigued. When you play live do you try and interpret the songs in a different standard compared to how they on record? Like do you mutilate and mangle them in interesting ways or is it a replica of what’s been heard?
G: It can never be a replica really.
S: On the kind of mangling front, we’re probably not going to do this. But one thing we’ve talked a lot about on this album is our interest in minimalism. And our inspiration from that has been fairly loose. But severe. A faithful representation of minimalism.
With additional vocal spots from guest spots from the likes of Katy J Pearson and Goat Girl’s Clottie Cream and Holly Hole; Clear pops and explodes, scorches, and scolds with busy bass grooves and spooky, psyche pizazz, all distracted, captured, butchered by Keith Leven’s clever, brains rearranged, and performing here as features flicking knives in the middle of this holographic, lysergic milieu; this cacophonous, rotten monster; this rabid, rapid and unholy embodiment of dizzying, discordance. Chairs missing at the birthday party.
Are chairs stolen by LICE to save for the ones who aided the band in providing the preliminary stylistic frames that anchor and underpin the album: to cut-up is to question, to question is to cut-up. To summon up the greats as a source of strength throughout is a sophisticated notion of approach. And used in a way where you can observe its development from one body to another. As a pair of scissors to snip away the tumultuous gut of cultural repugnance. As the guiding hands of Burroughs and Ballard, Vonnegut, and Althusser, Wipers and Ben Wallers, hovering above their own.
LTW: What came first then in this situation? Was it these kinds of elaborate jams and then a story started to develop or did someone come into the room and suggest some kind of narrative to provide the spark?
A: I think the first concerted effort, the deliberate effort toward something which had a narrative, a prose-storyline to it, I think that was after, very early versions of I think 3 songs which had been written. Very early in the process. We got the bare bones of the early tracks down as Silus said the further we went along in the process of writing Wasteland, the slower we were writing the songs. I don’t necessarily think weren’t constructive, it was just a matter of having to move our headspace and stuff. So, we had the early, musical setting; the “what is this going to sound like?” And I knew that I wanted it to have a storyline, this big, standalone literary life. I’ve always been interested in characters and stories and other conventional narrative settings from other forms of writing, and using them as this, because to my mind they’re underused. The concept behind them was not fully-formed at that point. That kind of developed later. Although I knew I wanted it to be a kind of concept album. That crystallised as we went. So, the way the Wasteland was written just made sense that way. I think an initial iteration that we felt the album was done; then we killed a bunch of songs. All of it was vignettes really. Start to finish. Little stories.
G: As that lyrical element crystallized it allowed us a kind of framework or structure to start finishing or expanding upon the bare bones of the songs we’d already written based on where Alistair was going and how he was informing us through the lyrics as to what the general palettes or musical themes were going to develop. As his lyrics were progressing, we were also progressing in tandem.
The sheer, brilliant, bloody gall to melt them all together as a way to feed and electrify this sense of impassioned sense of direction and watch it come to life.
Wishing to transmigrate such facets, into Noise: an innumerably surprising particle of life, essential even with the capacity to unleash limitless sensual pleasures from the right combination of noises, diverse mixes of intensity, and different speeds of heat. The animated person as a vibrating, percussive strip, an engineer hitting the city to distil and develop all it can be built as, like an instrument of boundless abilities to engender Noise, in the face of technologically monomaniacal android frat parties, in the face paltry, trivial musical forms.
Because the city is a forgery, and LICE performs as blacksmiths within it. “Noise that comes from life is immediately restored to the same life”, so like Russolo’s inventory, its multiplied manifestations of noise, always a stable supplement of our life; it’s a matter of application.
And LICE applies it to fuck.
And to disconnect is to liberate; because dreamland is a marketplace; and this ideology remains a unanimously potent and profound feature throughout. our limbs no longer pinned to one hole of time, the opportunity to develop as a creative unit, away from the intoxicating poisonous auras of the bogus, atrocious ogre orchestras of the day. Which can, and must, to acquire the work of art, to seize the element of emotion, be accomplished.
And LICE accomplish it to fuck.
Or face the edge.
LICE, our humble narrators, our hollow men, our Nietzschean explorers, see the album format; albeit less villainous, as exactly that too. Which is so fucking refreshing it’s almost tearful.
Press Shots – Rowan Allen
Artwork – Patrick Saville.
Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton. His online archive can be found here.