The supergroup return to deliver a stunning + sophisticated thesis on selfhood
Alex Rigotti
13:29 31st July 2021

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Back in 2018, indie-folk darling Laura Marling and Tunng’s Mike Lindsey surprised everyone with their collaborative effort: LUMP. Their furry, multicoloured character fronted the album cover for their self-titled debut, which stunned critics with its intelligent blend of lush, acoustic textures, simmering beats, and Marling’s lyrical vocal style. Animal still approaches music through its folktronica lens; this time round, identity, fame, and desire are examined through nods to psychoanalysis, too.   

This album could have turned rather melodramatic, but LUMP tempers such instincts with dependable beats anchored by memorable ostinatos. Album opener ‘Bloom At Night’ begins with an echoing synth motif that encourages you to close your eyes and completely lose your bearings. Marling’s more restrained vocals and stellar lyricism, however, truly elevates the track, as she sings about the primal instincts unlocked in an attempt to reach fame: "it took one god seven days to go insane". The titular track ‘Animal’ continues these themes with its '90s dance beat and driving background melody. Here, tight, precise rhyme schemes to contrast against the wild howls of "animal": "red bricks/covering cheap tricks/came here to swing dicks".

That’s not to say risks haven’t been taken; with his fascination of waves, Lindsey has set some songs in 7/4 to mirror how waves travel in sets of seven. ‘Gamma Ray’ contrasts an assertive bassline and dictatorial drums with its psychedelic synths. Hats off to Laura for managing to write a song in 7/4 in which the beat is so awkwardly emphasised; whilst it’s an infectious combination of sounds, ‘Gamma Ray’ never seems to find its footing. ‘Phantom Limb’, however, is a meandering track that more elegantly incorporates the unusual time signature with a languid guitar riff and flittering synths. And although it’s in basic 4/4, ‘Paradise’ stands out as a deliciously sour song that opens with a beaming, dissonant synth which hinges on a solo towards the end that sounds like a guitar on an acid trip. 

One pitfall of the album, however, is its approach to its central character, LUMP – the furry, multicoloured puppet which seems to be hinted at as a concept and neglected for a lot of the album. Although the album has some impressively intricate vocal, lyrical, and sonic ideas, it seems to forget to explicate the wider significance of LUMP and what it represents. Some tracks, although well-produced, hold narratives that thematically may resonate but don’t seem to contribute to the overall mythology of LUMP – ‘Red Snakes’, whilst a gorgeous ballad about surreal dreams, seems not to address this, whilst ‘Oberon’ is a haunting interlude with confusing, near nonsensical lyrics in context of the album. 

Nevertheless, Animal is a multifaceted, ambitious record that seems to be fascinated with the more violent, primal side to fame. Marling and Lindsey have clearly refined their sonic palette more than the self-titled predecessor, which has resulted in a beautiful, detailed mixture of electronic and acoustic elements. It’s not afraid to be ambitious – but in reaching for the stars, Animal sometimes forgets about where it came from, failing to properly introduce the listener to LUMP as a metaphor.  

Animal is out now.

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Photo: Press