On their subtly hypnotic new album Chav Anglais, the Manchester, U.K., group Locean have captured a musical portrait of subtly progressing utter derangement that’s spread out just enough for you to really feel the tension. Much of the band’s work is improvisation-based, and that feeling continues here. The group’s newest four tracks contain the familiar skeleton of drum, bass, and the like, but the music’s actual form feels roughly equivalent to wisps of smoke that slowly but surely fill up a room you’re standing in until suddenly you realize — you’re suffocating. The generally low-tuned, slowly but surely progressing steps that Locean take on Chav Anglais ensure that their work has psychological impact. The album’s not just an exercise in physical limits — it’s a gradual build of pressure against psychological limits as well.
Throughout the twists they pack into Chav Anglais, Locean maintain striking melodic builds — although those serve more to define the adventurous experience they’ve captured rather than make it more “stable.” The music builds upward in intensity while progressing through the record. By the time track three and the more than twenty minute fourth and final track roll in, the music feels like it’s carrying the desperate cries of someone beating against the inside of a coffin they’ve been buried in. Thanks to the subtle but inescapable sheer force of the band’s build, every moment of that epic track four (and the whole album) packs a thrill — there’s really never a moment of just coasting along.
Founding member Lauren Bolger’s vocal work helps hold the piece together and elevate the ingredients to poignant heights. She veers around the spectrum, starting out sounding like she’s worn out like she’s just gotten to the other side of some exhausting experience, and as the record goes on, her singing follows the instrumentation in turning more and more directly energetically twisted. The combined effect of these developments leaves the album roughly along the lines of that point just before a dam holding back masses of water breaks — or perhaps, the music captures the moments right after those mountains of water have rolled through. Either way, via their incessantly shifting dynamics and apparent absolute refusal to stay in the same place musically for any lengthy period of time, Locean have crafted an experiential work of great power that pushes out beyond psychological comfort zones.
The band have often had a rotating group of supporting members and are in the same local scene as the intense noise rock group Gnod. Locean’s album’s official release date is November 1 via Artificial Head Records. Listen to some: