Published on 27th March 2020
Luo – Unspoken
People who go to gigs and deliberately choose to miss the support bands are very silly.
Yes, some supports can be dire, but the opposite is also true and over the years I’ve been startled by many bands I’d never heard of previously, even to the point of having to find out their names afterwards. Such a situation occurred last October when I went to see Battles in Bristol.
Luo were a brilliant support, in a similar vein to the main act, being an electronic duo with prominent drums, but sufficiently different to enhance the evening’s entertainment beautifully. They made quite an impact.
Luo began around 2015 as a project for Brighton-based electronic musician Josh Trinnaman, the first EP arriving that year with debut album Sleep Spindles in 2016. Drummer Barney Sage came aboard after another EP in 2017 and the current formation has been releasing singles over the last six months towards the upcoming release of Unspoken later this month.
And it’s a thoroughly entertaining listen, opening quietly as Testament expands majestically with drums and swathes of keyboards. Melody emerges, frenetic rhythms driving it forward as synths dance around them. There’s an epic quality against which the almost claustrophobic density of the drums fight, neither taking control, until the drums drop away, replaced in a dream-like section by a plaintive guitar figure. It’s a fine opening, dynamic and engaging to draw the listener in, ending with a further fusillade of drum pyrotechnics.
Eldritch Rhythm starts darkly, soaring keys lifting things beautifully before falling away, the tranquil yet sinister echoing drops and pops giving the feeling of being trapped in a cave, the ceiling eventually collapsing under the weight of drums. There’s a frenetic rush of electronically enhanced rhythms and synths, eventually stabilising. The opening sirens of Septa drag in a spectacular drum track to ground the piano and synths in an almost Ozric Tentacles way, the spaciness continuing with simple note patterns over driving rhythms, melody lines springing to life. It’s uplifting and energising stuff, repetitive phrases weaving around soloing melodies and the ever-shifting rhythms.
The variety is fascinating, Problem Ball, the latest single, exploring a heavier direction, more dissonant with almost metallic guitar working its way in to support the stop/start drums. There’s a calming section of picked out guitar lines before the mayhem returns, a soaring synth heading skywards as wordless vocals slide in. In contrast, The Gapper is tranquil and more spacious, the rhythmic outbursts more restained with the sedate lead line dropping off into free-form sounds, from which a delicate guitar melody emerges. It’s time to take a breath and step back from the intensity before the somewhat jazzier vibe of Boss Fight, keyboards searching for melody as the drums keep the forward momentum. It’s inventive and compelling as the theme subtly changes.
The two-part Pangolins is as enigmatic and curious as the scaly mammals of the title, the epic drive of Part 1 moving into the more introspective acoustic guitar-led and shorter Part 2, the two sides of the track complementing each other very nicely. This calming state of safety continues into Interval, another short track of chiming bell-like keys before Elegy, where forthright and structured drumming becomes more intense as the synths rise, eventually morphing into something of a showcase for the drums alone.
Finally, the longest track, Threnody, sees a slow build through keyboard melodies, drum attack and electronics. It doesn’t come across as the song of mourning that the title suggests, but there is an element of suggested loss in the hook lines. The various parts come together beautifully, stripping away in the mid-section before rising again to a sophisticated and calming close.
Josh Trinnaman and Barney Sage have built a compelling album, their key ingredients working together thoughtfully and with invention, the result being a highly dynamic and engaging listen that keeps you hooked. It uses rhythmic elements from dance music without straying too deeply into that zone, keeping the music interesting and free-flowing. Highly atmospheric, neither musician swamps the sound, each allowing the other free-rein at times but structured perfectly and well worked out within the demands of each piece.
The sound hovers within the realm of Battles and Three Trapped Tigers, but it is in no way a clone and offers a different experience that comes highly recommended from me. I’ll be making an effort to catch them live again this year, hopefully at the ArcTangent festival near Bristol in August.
01. Testament (4:26)
02. Eldritch Rhythm (4:27)
03. Septa (4:42)
04. Problem Ball (4:24)
05. The Gapper (4:48)
06. Boss Fight (3:27)
07. Pangolins Pt.1 (3:51)
08. Pangolins Pt.2 (1:50)
09. Interlude (1:42)
10. Elegy (2:28)
11. Threnody (5:48)
Total Time – 41:59
Josh Trinnaman – Keyboards, Electronics, Guitar
Barney Sage – Drums, Electronics
Adam Znaidi – Bass (track 2)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 27th March 2020