Release Date 06/18/2021
(Warp Records) NACC, SubModern
A city is not a static thing. It’s changed by the people who live there and the proposed developments which rise or crumble to make way for the new. The cycle of a city has a mythic quality, its origins are often debated, embellished and layered with the foundations of previous settlements buried underneath, along with their stories. Torn between the past and present, the industrial ruinscape of her hometown of Manchester and the subterranean walls of an 18th-Century naval shooting gallery, LoneLady explores the duality of memorialising and manifesting on her new album Former Things. Former Things will be released via Warp on 18th June.
A VHS flicker in a dark teenage bedroom; just outside the window, an orange streetlight glow. Hopes, ambitions, dreams…where are they now? Are they Former Things?
As her name indicates LoneLady writes, performs and records all the components of her music, building up her own soundworlds in a solitary creative process. Whereas previous albums at least allowed the occasional appearance of another human - a drummer - with Former Things even that has now gone.
This time, LoneLady has programmed all the beats and sequences, swapping her Telecaster guitar for an eclectic selection of synthesisers and hardware, their limitless creative potential providing the foundations to take the album in a new direction.
At the heart of this album is a compendium of drum machines, sequencers and synths, taking Julie Campbell’s music into a more electronic and dance floor-driven place, which still taps into her earlier-reaching techno compositions and post-funk guitar playing. Raw synths and beats hit hard in contrapuntal sequences and patterns that funk and crunch their way across eight uptempo tracks. It’s a step beyond the musical landscape of her Hinterland album which cut through with a scratchy punk-funk, funk-pop and longer-leading six-minute dance track sound which achieved four A-List singles on BBC6Music; or the stark and choppy guitar playing of her debut Nerve Up.
Former Things grew out of a residency LoneLady undertook with Somerset House Studios in 2016. Excavating memories of her home in Manchester, she took them apart in the 18th Century Rifle Range within the building, surrounded by the whir and white noise of an unfamiliar yet exciting place.
Album opener, “The Catcher”, launches us into LoneLady’s latest soundworlds. The biting Korg sequences shudder inside tightly-programmed Oberheim DMX beats and crisp Roland percussion; comfortless cold strings and fear-drenched lyrics create a starkness that harks back to her debut album. “(There Is) No Logic” moves decisively, with its punchy electro and r&b-tinged energy. Echoes of Neneh Cherry, Janet Jackson, Arthur Baker and Confusion-era New Order are saturated with the mid-80’s electro-funk of Cabaret Voltaire. Inspired by ‘Memento Mori’ paintings - a medieval art form that warns us ‘remember you must die’ - the track is a new take on this warning, updated and re-imagined. A soundscape of funk, crunch and vocoder-ed fear awaits on “Fear Colours”. Akai MPC samples grind like pistons, strings shiver with dread and low synths grind menacingly behind a tale of premonition, pursuit and trepidation.
Crunchy edges are softened and sepia-tinged on the title track “Former Things”. The wistful strings, sparkling glockenspiel and shimmering cymbals evoke luminous Super-8 memories and mournful reflections on a lost golden age of childhood and youth. The narrative of temporality is centre stage in “Time Time Time”; rebellious guitars squall across propulsive sequences of chunky piano riffs and Linn snare samples in a losing race with the passage of time.
Throughout Former Things, LoneLady sketches out her memories as a mythscape, an emotional geography punctuated by her tough-edged yet undulating dance creations and the ineffable duality of herself, captured on the cover art. This depicts LoneLady channelling a Joan-of-Arc-battlefield persona, forging through the sodium-orange lit streets of her past, bearing aloft a medieval-style banner emblazoned with her hand-stitched album title. Speaking about her self-designed artwork and direction, she explains:
This mourning and mythmaking is echoed in the work of one of LoneLady’s favourite artists, George Shaw, who, in his obsessive paintings of scenes from his youth, elevates formative place and memory into something sacred:
Similarly, one central question burns restlessly throughout the album in its driving lyrics, beats and sequences - where has that youthful wonder gone? Is it still here?
Former Things is a glowing assemblage of memory we want to preserve: a myth that we protect in our minds, to remember across the ages and inspire us always.