by Craig Howieson
A varied array of songs that shows off the very best of two exceptional, yet modest, songwriters
Despite being unknown to each other until relatively recently, Joel Harries and Malcolm Middleton – as Lichen Slow – sound like they have been making music together for years. The shared comfort they exude on this debut, Rest Lurks, is even more startling when you learn that the whole thing was made without them ever stepping foot in the same room.
Perhaps the quality of the songwriting here should not come as too much of a surprise given the wealth of experience the two have gathered in various other projects over the years. Even still, the malleable way in which they have melded their styles together has resulted in something rather unique. These are songs of subtleties and understated wonders – aware of their strengths without having to shout them from the rooftops. Between Harries’ intricate guitar, complex arrangements and ethereal voice, and Middleton’s seemingly inexhaustible sonic experimentations and gruff delivery, you would be hard pushed to guess how any particular track will end up.
Opener, Hobbies, a track that finds Middleton slow dancing with the devil in the verses before Harries floats in on the chorus to lament how the arts is becoming the playground of the elites, is a nice introduction to the multiple knots to be untied within any one song. With the two collaborating on lyrics as well as music, sometimes things make perfect sense, while at others they make little sense at all. But isn’t that life?
The world can at times feel indeterminately dark, and Harries and Middleton aren’t afraid to tussle with a few demons on Rest Lurks. There is also plenty of humour dotted throughout though, such as on the fantastic Preset (‘Shit bands singing shit songs they’re everywhere… I need them to comment on so I can write a shit song’) and Sunshine Policy (Sombre Song) – (‘Common sense doesn’t exist / Most people lack any of it’). Sometimes there is little else to do, but find something to smile about when things seem grim. Like a fart at a funeral, you can’t help but laugh.
From blissful folk to sing-along indie pop, Rest Lurks is a varied array of songs showing off the very best of two exceptional, yet modest, songwriters. That modesty is misplaced though, as this record will burrow on for years to come.
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