For Fans Of
Lume’s new record and label debut, ‘Wrung Out’, is a release that pulls keen influence and inspiration from later-day Thrice, post-hiatus Quicksand, the heavier and grungier undertones of Soundgarden, as well as the haunting compositional skills and other-worldly like timbres and sonic characteristics of Radiohead. Full of funeral rhythms, slow to mid-paced tempos, intimate vocal performances, a borderline stoner-rock approach to riffs, post-rock layering, strong dynamic shifts between musically sparse sections and chaotic instrumental moments, and haunting lyrics regarding the varying forms of loss; ‘Wrung Out‘ is a powerful debut for this underground Chicago-Detroit outfit.
Lume’s first full-length is a captivating record in many ways, one that I’d actually liken to the score of some kind of horror or thriller movie. Now, I don’t mean that move score comparison as to imply that ‘Wrung Out‘ is littered with overblown low-end, loud blaring sounds, rattling hand percussion, or bursts of high-register strings that jump out at you like weak-ass jump scares. No, I offer that comparison in the sense that this LP is just so unnerving and ominous, with there being a constant feeling of dread and an undertow of unease flowing all through the veins of ‘Wrung Out‘.
In just one example that I can pick out of the hat, it’s how the album’s black and white front cover of a woman putting on her lipstick in the mirror is pretty simple and almost mundane yet it seems to hint at something darker, something more sinister below the surface. Which would actually sum up this record perfectly: on the surface level, it looks and sounds all dry and clear-cut, but as soon as you properly dive in deeper into its folds, you discover a whole new world to explore and peel back.
As for some other examples, it’s how the guitars and the bass both drone, scream and heave like these lurking spectres of death and existential dread across each track’s soundscape. It’s how frontman Daniel Butler’s calming, ethereal and inviting singing compliments yet also contrasts the surrounding instrumentals that encase his vocals; creating a dirge-like sound that’s more often than not comforting and off-putting at the same time. It’s shown in how the American trio interweaves spacious melodies, controlled and liberal use of amp feedback and Dylan Hulett’s thick, overly distorted bass lines together over Austin Hulett’s air-tight and rock-solid drumming to mould an insane amount of tension. It’s how the rich tones of Hulett’s bass and Butler’s guitar have clearly been laboured over carefully to create the album’s engaging yet fittingly uncomfortable and skin-crawling mood. It’s also found in how each of the three band member’s respective elements and in-sync roles effortlessly morphs together like the twisted metal of a car crashing in violently beautiful slow-motion.
Though perhaps most importantly, it’s all due to just how defeated and how downright gloomy Lume sound and feel throughout their solid debut LP. But please don’t miss-quote me there, for that’s not a criticism at all; that’s merely the true essence of ‘Wrung Out’ and that’s what makes it so goddamn engrossing and satisfying to listen to.
According to their label, when Lume set out to create ‘Wrung Out’, their songwriting was originally inspired by the collective weight of various modern societal pressures – you’ll find remnants of this in the how one’s pessimism of the world affects their well-being in ‘Keep Me Under‘ or how ‘Loss Leader’ challenges echo chambers and the idea of being paranoically stuck inside your own little online world behind locked doors and drawn curtains. (That part are also two of the record’s standout moments too). However, after the tragic deaths of three of their friends from drug abuse and suicide, Lume shifted the record’s focus to become more of a memorial to their deceased friends, an outlet for their needed catharsis, as well as the original reflection of what they see in our world. And this record really is the sound of all that frustration, anger, pain and loss cut open and poured out onto tape; replicating the dreadfully tired and wrung out ruts that we all fall into sometimes via ten slow-burning but thoroughly detailed and seamlessly executed heavy rock compositions that make for one beautifully bleak experience.
For to label this album as a “happy” or “uplifting” listen would be like calling Requiem For A Dream a family-friendly film for a Sunday night sit-down; you’d be outright fucking wrong.
Amongst the many deformed shadows that ‘Wrung Out’ casts, glimmers of hope and brighter melody shine through even the record’s darkest clouds and most overcast sequences. Gripping mid-album tracks like ‘Shudder’ and ‘31st Street’ see the group push and pull between highly contrasting moments of laid-back melodic light and creepy backing ambience, as well as sparse dynamics and heavier, careening post-hardcore sections; all defined by churning bass, a thick air of melancholy, sexy and smooth-as-hell vocal melodies, ringing guitar swells, subtle feedback, and tectonic instrumentals shifts that all land with real force. The penultimate ‘Already Low‘ conjures up something similar with an intro built around a groovy, locked-in rhythm section loop from the Hulett brothers alongside Butler’s rising shimmering guitar lines that all provide a solid foundation for the trio to float off into the grand ether above; a musical blueprint that’s not by any means new but is one that Lume most definitely excels at.
Other songs like the distinguished opening title track, the livelier and moodier ‘Gaze‘, as well as the lushness of ‘Lean’ – which shows off some hefty Quicksand worship in the rhythm and riff department – all showcase Lume’s love for physical, ’90s grunge movements and even more pensive instrumental qualities where Butler’s serenading vocals propel you through their emotional haze superbly well. Elsewhere, a longer and slower cut like ‘Unglued’ sees the band taking their sweet fucking time snow-balling up through lengthier structures as they harp on motifs to elevate the song up even further, but the payoff is there come the end of the line. In fact, it’s these more restrained moments that only serve to highlight how well-done the album’s cleanly balanced mix and polished production are; a factor that bolsters these ten songs with one sturdy leg to stand upon.
Among a record of solid tracks, I’d say that this album’s strongest and most mesmerising moment arrives with the dynamic and disturbing closer, ‘Unending’. This final track is specifically written from the viewpoint of one of the trio’s friends that passed away and is just a harrowing emotional experience from start to end; trying to fathom the idea of being a mere ghost trapped in a maze and not being able to get free. This song is without a doubt Lume at their absolute peak, fittingly placed at the record’s end as it coalesces everything that makes the group’s sound work so well on the rest of ‘Wrung Out‘. The sharp attention to singular instrumental lines and honed-in melodies early on, the drums playing simple but effective grooves underneath, distant atmospherics creeping in closed from all sides by the minute, the vocals rising in pitch and volume slowly but just enough to pull you in hard. All with the song’s epic final minute seeing the trio swing and strike together through these grand upheavals of chaotic guitars, layers of dissonant tones and screeching feedback, pounding drums and sombre vocals talking of numbness and succumbing to the weight bearing down on one’s own shoulders. It’s goddamn impressive and palpable stuff to say the very least. ‘Unending‘ is the stuff of blood-freezing nightmares and it exists on a higher plain of existence than the rest of this record – a record that was already good to begin with – but this brilliant closer really is the ghostly icing atop the chillingly cold cake.
The only real complaint that I can level against ‘Wrung Out‘ is that it can come off as a little one-note at times, and dare I say it, even a little one-dimensional too. The band have indeed tapped into a highly consistent post-rocky/heavy rock sound with this debut, one that’s no doubt potent, but over the course of these ten tracks things may start to feel very samey for some listeners. Basically, if this record doesn’t grab you by the time ‘Loss Leader‘ arrives just four songs in, then by the time you reach ‘Lean‘ towards the end, you probably won’t be any more enraptured in picking up what Lume are putting down. By that very same token, I think that the band’s strong songwriting chops, heavily ominous timbres, killer instrumental executions, intricate textures, solid knack for both effective restraints and crafting nail-biting tension can more than make up for any potential criticism of ingrained repetition. Well, for me personally at least.
With their incredibly bleak but impactful debut LP, ‘Wrung Out’, Lume really are one of the best-kept musical secrets of 2018. So go and educate yourself ASAP.
- Wrung Out
- Keep Me Under
- Loss Leader
- 31st Street
- Already Low
‘Wrung Out’ drops Friday, April 20th via Equal Vision Records/Graphic Nature. See why I loved ‘Unending’ so much below: