Living Body: Body Is Working – album review
Living Body – Body Is Working (Barely Regal Records / Kingfisher Bluez)
CD / DL
Three years of near-fanatical collaborative work from members of Juffage, Sky Larkin and Vessels has resulted in this solid debut as Living Body.
Louder Than War editor Sarah Lay reviews.
Supergroup, collaborative project – call it what you will, Living Body’s work together over the last three years has birthed an understated but undeniably captivating debut, providing interest far beyond each member’s musical heritage.
But it is this background that piques the interest before the music starts; formed from Jeff T.Smith, previously of Juffage, Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin and Sleater-Kinney, and Tom Evans of Vessels. It doesn’t stop there; live the band are joined by Alice Rowan of Mayshe-Mayshe and Sarah Statham of Esper Scout. There is a fine lineage here which feeds into an album of mixed styles but fine quality.
As interesting as the linage is the band’s birth. The three at the heart of Living Body – Smith, Harkin and Evans – took part in the one-off Sonic Cauldron performance in a church in Leeds. For a month before the performance they moved into the church, learning to use it as an extra instrument and weaving their sounds together. All of the songs were original, the audience positioned within the immersive confines of a circular PA as the emerging tracks were performed for the first time.
The band tag these tracks now as Post-Brexitcore and there is a political reading which could be made of many of the lyrics; taught dissatisfaction rather than outright rage. From the off lead track Declaration of Independence builds from light melodic guitar and voice to a crescendo of grinding distortion; a defiant statement of ‘I won’t vote for you’ slowly, atmospherically winding then piling on the sounds to crash into a claustrophobic culmination.
There is beauty among the brutality too; wildflowers amid the concrete. The lilting harmonies of second single I Recollect, the echo, hum and whine of strings across Trail Mix Pt 2 before they shudder to a sudden halt. This is an album of decay, of resonance, an album of unquiet.
Harkin’s lead vocals on Last Few True, harmonising over circling and gentle guitars, a caress amid the grittier moments of the album even as layers of fuzzing chords swoop of slow and sparse beats. Where so much else here speaks in industrial tones, the trinity here bring in a more pastoral feel.
Imaginatively created and immersive even on record, this is an album which reflects the weary onward step we all take out of 2016. It gives fleeting moments of light between long shadows. Post-rock, post-pop, post-hardcore, post-Brexitcore…we are so post these genres we’re somewhere new. Soaring vocals, crashing melodies and a collaborative project which exists for creative curiosity rather than individual’s indulgence. An album that envelops you slowly, but completely; a late musical highlight of the year.
All words by Sarah Lay. Sarah is editor of Louder Than War. You can find her full author archive here or you can follow her on Twitter. She is a freelance music journalist and broadcaster – find her full portfolio here.