Lucidvox - That’s What Remained [vinyl]

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Premiera: 24.11.2023

 

“They’re a heavy, intense and mesmerising maelstrom of wind-tunnel vocals, drones, treated guitar and shamanic rhythms…with innate beauty too.” – Mojo

Lucidvox’s new album is vast-sounding. A collection of swirling ritual missives offered up in the hope of better times. Formerly based in Russia, for their new album That’s What Remained, the all-female quartet has added additional sonic thrust (horns, keyboards, strings, atmospheric textures) to their already acclaimed and impassioned psych-rock.

Speaking to Vogue in 1970, the 20th century modernist writer Vladimir Nabokov stated that, “The best part of a writer’s biography is not the record of his adventures but the story of his style.” This is an easily transferable maxim; style often being – if inadvertently – a clearer mirror to the soul than other artistic considerations.

Nabokov’s words could have been said of Lucidvox’s second long player, That’s What Remained: here, style reveals the soul.

The first thing that strikes the listener when diving in is the sheer scale, and breadth, of the sound. And the directness of the music. The outlines of the arrangements are drawn in with strong bold strokes using a thick, warm line. Closer inspection reveals a wealth of detail, and perspectives that surprise. Deliberate twists of a phrase, the odd synth passage or guitar lick add yet more emotional hinterland. The melodies are often simple, but determined and forced home to make their point; and though they resemble the playground rhymes documenting the childhood memories the band holds dear, maybe there is no time for being too clever, or allusive, right now. This is their style going forward, nothing here is given to chance, or left in as a beautiful accident.

That’s What Remained cannot be anything other than a Lucidvox record – that firebird quality they always had, the busy rhythms and spitting guitar runs, are still there. But it’s a work with a considerable presence; much more so than their debut, We Are. This is down to a number of factors, maybe the key one being the number of people involved. Lucidvox are a tight-knit, democratic band, used to making music together, alone. But when formulating this record they turned outwards, and asked trumpeter Timur Mizinov from Wooden Whales, violinist Dasha Avramova, guitarist Dmitry Chesnov and multi-instrumentalist Ella Bayisbaeva as a back vocalist to contribute; alongside a children’s choir(!). Guitarist Galla Gintovt mapped out the reason. “We wanted to have a bigger, more powerful sound. And when many people make music together, we can come together as one in the group; it’s different, an interesting experience for a musician when you are one of many.” The results were such that Galla, and drummer Nadya Samodurova both quipped they wanted to rename the band Lucidvox Orchestra. Samodurova noted: “Dima [Dmitry] came to the rehearsals and tried to make a bigger sound. Dima is magic; he has a good ear for music and plays his guitar instantly, to find the correct point where to add to the sound.” Vocalist Alina Evseeva: “All the musicians who played with us created their parts themselves. It wasn’t us suggesting it. It was coworking and co-curating.”

It is an oddly liturgical work, too. Devotions are made in sonic form, the songs often seem to be acting as ritual missives offered up in the hope of better times. The lyrics on single ‘There Ahead’ are indicative, and in their straightforwardness dovetail well with this new approach to structure: “Stay there, the lights will shine ahead / New flags of the new spring / You can’t break me / You can’t break me / You can’t break me / Peace to the world.”

Nadya sees this latter, “liturgical” development as natural, given their currently dislocated state. Due to the fallout from Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the band, scattered throughout Europe and the Middle East, hadn’t met up collectively for over a year, until the late summer of 2023. “It [the new approach] is because we became older and some situations forced us to grow up. The music grew up with us as well. We want to talk about these situations, like Covid and this war, not just in the lyrics but the music as well. We want to say something important and tell people about what is happening around us. We have very different topics now. You can maybe hear this.”

Bassist Anna Moskvitina noted that, “We first started the record back in 2020 and it carried on through some very uncertain years in our life, during which we had no stability under our feet. Maybe that translates a little bit in our music. When we started Lucidvox, Nadya wanted to make music that sounded like a fairy tale; using stories from childhood, and showing the difference between that and grown-up life.” Nadya: “I didn’t know what grown-up life was. Now I do. You need to do something with your life, you have to grow up because you need to, we all need to.”

When examining the record, it may be worth turning to another writer, Graham Caveney, who once wrote, “Who doesn’t want their experience to have a description? Yet who doesn’t want to be more than their diagnosis?” This is also a key element at play in That’s What Remained. Artfully and collectively constructed to convey their message, nothing here is wasted or done for the hell of it, as we have heard; but the band clearly hope that their new style can change their own narrative. Each track’s DNA tries to persuade the listener that Lucidvox see this record as a launchpad for other iterations of themselves. ‘There Ahead’ is a vast-sounding clarion call, a scene setter that leads the other songs onto this new stage, and sets up one of the band’s finest tracks, ‘Naidiya’, which is a great stop-start number: filmic, melancholy, and with a vulnerable underbelly. At its quietest, the song is reminiscent of the soundtrack of the 70’s Czechoslovakian surrealist horror film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Still: guitars, keys and brass add drama and direction where necessary and the bass drum and toms play off each other, creating a sound that bobs up and down, like a buoy on the water.

Given time and circumstance, Lucidvox want to be understood as more than their current “diagnosis”. Although ‘Don’t Look Away’ harks back to their adrenaline-fuelled earlier works, the new focus adds emotional depth and steel. Their trick of making spitting, fiery guitar runs that almost trip over themselves in their haste is still here, but Lucidvox now know when to make way for other elements, such as the brass, which adds an uplifting note.

Their music is of the land, fecund, powerful and complex if you take time to investigate. Like the land, it may give birth to unexpected new forms. As singer Alina Evseeva says, their roots, historical, social, personal, are in this music. ‘Wandering’ is as the name suggests, and maybe as close to a musical take on tautology as you can get. Plaintive notes of guitar pick out a melody that is then embellished with trumpet. The guitar returns to rework the melody line; injecting Iommi-style rockisms as thick and unguent as molten chocolate. The trumpet part flutters around, like seagulls behind a tractor. ‘Hold Me’ uses the simple melody line as the framework for a track where the guitars spin thick webs of sound, doubling back on themselves, the patterns not dissimilar to those found on Amon Düül II’s 1970 album Yeti. Trumpets and keys add space and a sense of emotional hinterland. ‘All Frozen’ follows a similar path where the vocals – distant, almost numb at times – contrast sharply with the quicksand of electronic noise that the band have whipped up.

These punchy, repetitive, broad-brush tracks are at once recognisable and unsettling. For instance, the synth pattern that launches ‘That’s What Remained’ may be there to throw the listener off the scent: but the initial mathrock feel, with the off-beats and slightly arrhythmic patterns, gives way to a crushing, obvious rock song. ‘On The Way’ is a lament given shape by some drowsy, feedback-heavy guitars. Eventually the voices swell, soaring around the fuzz of kicked out by the axe work. But what, or who is lamented? Themselves?

Among other things, the term dissociation describes the process of ionic compounds being broken down into smaller particles and ions. The process of crystallisation allows each component part to be liberated from the other. It’s worth noting that, with a few exceptions, they can be reunited. You could take this process as a metaphor for the history of Lucidvox and their first new record since 2022. Plotted and rehearsed a handful of times before the band left Moscow, and built online over a year, the swapped files and code became the smaller particles of the (human) whole. The pathways these files negotiated also ran parallel to those trodden by the band members. What will happen when they meet, and play the music? Anna: “It’s like riding a bicycle. We will remember.” Galla “There are ten years of our friendship behind us: we are four girls, we try.” Anna, once again: “We have been together through other, very hard situations in these ten years, and we know each other very well: no need to talk.”