An Engrossing & Overwhelming Insight Into A Soiled Paradise Of Modern Love
Vulnerability in art may stand as its greatest strength. Whether that be a defiant in-your-face anthem that aggravates and clips at the very veins of humanity or the freezing cuts at the bottom of an abyss, the ability to withhold both into an engaging and appreciative form is an uncatchable gift. Ellery Roberts’ unmistakable vocals strains have long been a holder of such a gift, captured by his emergence as the frontman of acclaimed Manchester dark-punk visionaries WU LYF.
After stirring and intriguing a nation of music lovers with their revered debut album 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain', the band blew into a different realm and imploded just as quickly, faltering under the expectations and preconceptions that pressurised the outfit, and most notably Roberts himself. Purposefully heading into the shadows, he met Dutch audio-visual artist Ebony Hoorn and together they embraced a new collective direction in LUH (Lost Under Heaven) and set about transferring that pent up vulnerability and anguish into a cinematic dystopian landscape. Their debut 'Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing' succeeds in that, laying out an engrossing and overwhelming insight into a soiled paradise of modern love.
Whereas a notable division between WU LYF’s instrumental flourishes and Roberts’ panoramic prowess was the confinements as a somewhat underground band entity, in LUH those rich vistas are pushed and explored to the full. Opener “I&I” is a brittle and exposed dagger that embellishes that unmistakable vocal vulnerability into a stunning orchestral unravelling, whilst “Loyalty” follows a similar path with the intertwining vocals of Roberts and Hoorn clicking in an almost biblical manner, the perfect compliment to each others distinct tone.
Such a combination has clearly given Roberts an endless array of possibilities, drawing inspiration in terms of melody and euphoria in a distinctly ethereal approach. In “Unites”, underneath the layered and industrial onslaught is ultimately an incredibly well written pop track, with “Beneath The Concrete” building on the epic soundtrack theme with an incredibly catchy choral refrain, reminiscent of the early sounds emerging from The Cribs amongst others.
That duality between experimental and morphed electronica to pop purity is the delectable complementation that takes 'Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing' to another level.
Encompassing a vast array of genres ultimately allow LUH that opportunity to thrive in their undeniable terrain. “Lost Under Heaven” is a classic slice of grungey 90s charm, with Roberts and Hoorn in an almost combative state as their electronic edge becomes something all the more scuffy.
“First Eye To The New Sky” is a particularly affecting slide, cascading against Purple Rain-esque guitars and pattering digital droplets, it’s a standout moment on the record as Roberts finally achieves that grand 80s pop ballad he’s been longing for. It’s yet another example of Hoorn’s melodic chill that counterbalances Roberts in a manner which once left him stranded within WU LYF. Whilst his emotionally raw vocals are powerful and off-hinged, there was always the tendency of pushing himself too far and into an unlistenable frenzy, something that doesn’t happen throughout 'Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing', Hoorn acting as the perfect counter-balance. Demonstrated through the solo pull of “Future Blues”, her mesmeric takes sounding like early Courtney Love records, sitting as a glacial breeze and ultimately what makes the LP so melodically sound and dependable.
Crucial mid-album highlight is “$ORO” a sprawling mesh of auto-tune, glitchy pulsations and unmistakable cries bemoaning the privileged few and corporate greed before shifting to a European-dance bridge and descending into a propulsive and relentless breakdown. It’s a true sign of the daring and experimental side that Roberts must of been longing to release, finding a perfect home in the cathartic and desperate surroundings of LUH.
Ultimately, that’s what makes 'Spiritual Songs For Lovers To Sing' such an invigorating and vital record, a realisation of talent distilled into pure alternative genius. The result is undeniably a classic pop record submerged within a 21st-century apocalyptic breakdown of political idealism, a jerking and at times violent manifesto for modern love and longing. Roberts and Hoorn combine into one powerful voice, that takes that euphoric leaning towards the grandeur and peppers it with a distinctly human reality. A dark and at times overwhelming journey, it’s one that comes out on the other side as a life-affirming gospel and potentially one of the most relevant releases of the year so far.