Imagine you are boarding a luxury jumbo jet with a disco interior alongside a happy-go-lucky set of co-passengers, nostalgically dressed in both 70s and 80s fashion, ready for a never-ending celebratory party. As the jet launches into the air, you can feel the travelling breeze and relaxing air pass through your body and interact with each nerve ending, as if you are indeed flying outside the air craft. The plane would be branded in multi-colour typography and entitled Hinterland. It sounds like a bizarre dream but it can also be the visual interpretation of the second album from LoneLady.
Solo-multi-instrumentalist Julie Ann Campbell introduced us to her unique musical experience and charming style on her debut album Nerves Up. It reinvented a contrasting genre known as punk-funk, which takes the pairing of explosive, noisy and rough guitars with arty synthesizers and drum machines a kin to post-punk acts such as fellow Manchurians Joy Division and The Smiths, and curiously blends it with a funk groove and a disco-dance texture aided by the musician’s voice.
This is not a new idea and has been influenced by pioneers Cabaret Volatire and Gang of Four, and heard on “This Is Not A Love Song” by Public Image Ltd. and “Lucinda” by A Certain Ratio. On the other hand, Lonelady added new wave and Jangle pop sensibilities, and updated it with modern day technology aided by her drumpads. Most importantly, it was the unpredictable and evolutionary progression in her production that made it uniquely her own, with sparkles, clapping beats, echoes, math rock compositions and rattling indistinctive percussion becoming her idiosyncrasies. There’s even a The Godfather-esque mandolin involved to show her virtuoso credentials.
Her new album Hinterland is just as unpredictable and even more experimental and fun. The most notable change is a subtle departure away from rusty and distorted post-punk guitars and a focus more exclusively on funk and danceable transitions. This is immediately heard on “Into The Cave“, backed by a funky rhythmic guitar, it’s an avant-garde arrangement of metallic percussive sounds that crash, bash and wallop, whilst one of its consistent metal forms mimics Hip Hop swing.
Warped electronics hint at the theme to quiz show Catchphrase, if performed by Gary Numan. Its quirkiness, unexpected key changes (particularly on “Bunkerpop“), constant addition of layers and ever-evolving atmosphere make this one example of how her many epic-length tracks never reach the stage of cloying humdrum. Interestingly, “Red Scrap” continues her new wave association from Nerves Up and has a similar saccharine art rock quality to compatriots Egyptian Hip Hop, and is made more nostalgic with 80s style glass electric shimmering.
The aforementioned aerology perception is felt throughout the album. It can be exemplified by the airplane take-off sample on “Bunkerpop”, the airy and drafty synths in “Groove It Out”, the stratosphere effects on the opening seconds to “Flee” and the instrumental spacious aura on the final section of “Silvering“. Lonelady’s voice remains calm, detached, single-paced and self-assured, it breezes throughout both albums with a pattern of split-sentences that consist of one to three words. It avoids possessing an exigent personality but it partially steps out off its comfort zone a few times including on “Groove It Out”, in which it adopts semi-rap pronunciations to keep up with its pace and has a chanting quality on “(I Can’t See) Landscapes”.
However, her voice is not as crystal clear and intimate as much as on her debut album’s finale “Fear No More“. On said track, we got to a hear a hint of her cello, an instrument that still seems a little random, even though we are accustomed to her wild compositions. On her latest album, she utilizes her cello to create a mood that’s tranquil and euphoric on “Flee”, yet somehow it’s made creepy by the reintroduction of her post-punk electric guitar misbehaving hazardously in the background.
Cello is married to funk guitar on the odd yet rule-breaking title-track “Hinterland“. As wah-wahs stylize the vibe, the repetitive orchestration gives it an earnest direction, making it a weird version of Isling Brother’s “Do Your Thing”. If that wasn’t strange enough, an experimental session of distorted and screaming electric guitar becomes the unwanted third wheel. Although this could all be the theme music to her whimsical fictional theme park.
The biggest spontaneity is left to the end with “Mortar Remembers You“. The swirling washing-machine of a ride begins with a thunderclap and cheerfully progresses in mid-tempo Two Door Cinema Club-esque indie rock before travelling back and forth between alternative rock crescendos, synth-backed ghostly psychedelia and blues moments before ending with her most loud vocal. It feels like several songs switched together with stardust.
With all the travelling, you are bound to feel jet-lagged but it’s safe to say that LoneLady has now landed in her own genre. On “Red Scrap”, Julie Ann Campbell admits that, “forever I’m changing“, perhaps that means there’s a possibility that the next album will be exclusively cello? Hinteland is out now on Warp Records, purchase it here.
Words by Matt Hobbs