Side-projects are a place in which an artist can express oneself freely, exercising a different part of their creative brain in a totally new environment, devoid of everyday routine. It can be a vehicle where collaboration is king, which is a mindset that Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay have championed through LUMP.
Marling, one of the most mercurial artists that Britain has offered created in recent times, has explored her partnership with Lindsay in a way that has allowed her to challenge herself in new sonic directions. Lindsay is an acclaimed composer and producer who, as part of LUMP, unlocks a new type of Laura Marling on Animal.
Their partnership sees Lindsay assert control of the compositions while Marling works her magic on the lyrics and melodies. It’s a formula that worked a treat on their self-titled 2018 debut and continues to reap the rewards on the expansive album Animal. In LUMP, however, Marling is able to move away from the traditional limitations of folk music and chase a more contemporary sound — but her lyrical majesty still thrives. Naturally, the electronic opening track ‘Bloom At Night’ signifies instantly that Animal isn’t Songs For Our Daughter II. “Those who find themselves acclaimed, Go to god to get renamed, It took one god seven days to go insane,” Marling sings on the opening number before it erupts into an explosive psychedelic groove and gets mightily hypnotic.
‘Bloom At Night’ seamlessly floats into ‘Gamma Ray’, but ‘Animal’ is the moment that the album comes alive. The first couple of songs are there to fully adjust your mind to the ominous LUMP experience, and the duo takes pleasure from getting wickedly weird across the rest of the record.
The juxtaposition between the trance-like beats crafted up by Lindsay and Marling’s textured honest lyricism, as she sorrowfully sings: “Cry at the window, Using your words, All that you want, Is to be heard.”
Marling’s vocals are the only instrument she’s in charge of on Animal, and she makes sure not to waste a single note. She tees up the melody for ‘Climb Every Wall’ on the preceding track and helps make the album feel like one spectacular piece of doomsday ready theatre. Lindsay then drops the pace of the proceedings on ‘Red Snakes’ and ‘Paradise’, which contain an eerie beauty as Marling’s sear across the middle of the record. ‘We Cannot Resist’ is the album’s piece de resistance and sees LUMP fully in their pomp. It’s a catchy, upbeat, playful number, and Marling exudes buckets of infectious energy.
The Venn diagram of Marling’s repertoire and songs that make you want to dance rather than weep are vastly thin, but the feelgood, ‘We Cannot Resist’, sees her expand her horizons in new adventurous ways. Moving on to the album closer, ‘Phantom Limb’, we’re introduced to a six-minute dainty number that rounds off the album in a sedative manner and brings the experience to a mellow end.
Animal isn’t an easy listening record, but it’s more than worth persevering with, and the rewards are tenfold the investment of your time. Lindsay cultivates a different form of artistic expression from Marling, and she gets to scratch that itch of escaping her comfort zone. It’s an album the duo has made for themselves and nobody else. It’s refreshing to hear both artists make music purely for their love of doing so and for no ulterior reason. Liberation is the theme that overarches Animal and makes it a kaleidoscopic trip.