You can call it Punk; you can call it Noise; you can, if you will call it Beat poetry. One thing that Manchester UK experimentalists Locean do produce is a thrilling, vibrant energy and Chav Anglais (Artificial Head Records), the band’s first full-length album, is full of such attitude: from crashing strings and rhythms to sparse, protesting, dominant sexuality.
David McLean’s booming bass groove throughout opener ‘Air Hostess’ is initially juxtaposed with Jefferson Temple’s jagged, spiked rhythm guitar and the whacked-out, repetitive drawl of vocalist Lauren Bolger. This, despite the description, is anything but dull: the track becoming more intense and unsettling as it dips and rises from Torch-like introspection to the fizzing cauldron of Canadians Big|Brave, all the while being overcoated in Bolger’s numbed howl.
It’s a jaw-dropping opening which paves the way for the nerve-shredding, electrifying ‘Skyn’: the brooding soundtrack to a contemporary horror film, one of those that actually do scare the shit out of you because it’s not overly gratuitous and could feasibly happen. Again it’s a creation that shouts and rests, this time with Bolger’s spooky delivery granted added edge by off-kilter string effects and that incredibly tight, complementary rhythm section. It falls into the staggering single release ‘Pussycat’, a punked-up Indie drive through wailing leads and scatty rhythms which barely controls an extraordinary vocal performance: Bolger seemingly screaming out a disdain for the abhorrent practice of ‘upskirting’. When that voice is controlled during an unbelievably tense mid-section it shows a remarkable depth and strength, which grows alongside some hair-raising feedback to an exhausted denouement.
Closer ‘No Skyn’ is a 21-minute epic, Temple’s lead strings trembling and tumbling into Bolger’s recurring poesy, which is brutal in a lazy yet enlivening fashion. Jon Perry’s drums, so far noticeable yet understated alongside more striking aspects of the sound, really come to the fore here: forcing a powerful beat, surprisingly busy against the sparing bass notes and soaring duet of riff and sampling, leading into a ferocious close of the first third. In a slightly different, arguably more blunt and ‘northern English’ mode than the already mentioned Big|Brave, Locean create music of occasional subtlety – as proved by the sinister yet seductive middle segment here – yet intersperse it with such troubling grit and tension that it absolutely demands to be heard, gripping the listener even in apparently uneventful moments and filling them with a febrile agitation. The build of ‘No Skyn’s elongated coda is dual parts anxiety and relief, a punch in the face followed by a lingering, euphoric kiss better, and like this album is completely irresistible.
9 / 10