9th June | Rough Trade
Photos: Abbie Shipperley
From chips and cheese to chips and gravy, things get pretty special when two outstanding components become greater than the sum of their parts, instead of drowning out each others’ best qualities. This was the challenge for LUMP, the piecemeal collaboration of lauded songwriter Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay, founding member of folktronica band, Tunng.
From the get-go it was clear, in Bristol’s Rough Trade, that these are two very different musicians. Each beat and layered transition is visible in the way Mike Lindsay bounds around the stage like an over-excited Jack Russell terrier, feeding off the band. Meanwhile Marling has a feline frugality with what she gives to the crowd. Knotty lyrics and a clear, clean voice, she is not going to shout, but uses her wit and gentle vocals to draw the listener in.
Their set started with the sort of muggy instrumentals that you might find between hits on a Pink Floyd album: dark and frantic, but in an ordered way. Marling looked up to the spotlight and started to sing: “You look like a crooner in crisis,/shaking your hips like a tart.”
There was an interesting duality to the delivery of these salty lyrics. Though her solo material has often been lyrically scathing, her musical texture is so pleasant, and her voice so impeccable, that you had to listen closely to hear the sting in her words. But now that she floats over the kind of glitchy backdrop that Tunng fans will know well, Marling no longer seemed to be gazing away in apparent shyness, but in a sort of intense coldness that lends her an impressively savage slant.
It seemed an unusual by-product of this collaboration of artists well into their career to have a sold-out show filled with people who didn’t know any songs, leaving only a rapt attention that leant an added intensity to the first songs. It was an intensity well suited to the murkiness of LUMP’s offering; with careful coatings of dark synths under guitar and flute ornaments, theirs is the sort of electronica that sounds orchestral in nature. This shines through the lead single, ‘Curse of the Contemporary,’ in which the careful instrumentation, so classical in feel, blends beautifully with the slight operatic tinge to Marling’s vibrato.
But LUMP are a new collaboration, and slight cracks started to show towards the end of the set. While ‘Hand Held Hero’ was the synthesis of the best elements of these two disparate artists, it also had flickers of the more awkward consequences of the pairing. It started off well, with Marling wry and punchy:
Oh my back to the wall
Better that than trip and fall
Money didn’t buy you anything at all
Except a ball for your chain.
But soon there was a disconnect, more than just the visual of Lindsay leaping around and Marling singing to the ceiling. As the layers of the song built up, her voice was soon swamped in the instrumentals, and when you could make out Marling’s voice, it sounded strained and unlikely to be able to take such a beating for long. Hers, after all, is not a voice that you belt out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” with.
As you might have expected, Laura Marling vanished almost before the last song was over, while Mike Lindsay lingered and gave the crowd a little wave. It’s hard to tell how long LUMP will last, and though at times their name seems to reflect the slightly uncomfortable way the two artists have lumped together, those moments where the freshness of the combination breeds brilliance make it well worth a second album.