Antonin Artaud, major figure of the twentieth century European avant-garde, loved to write essays and manifestos. In one such manifesto titled No More Masterpieces he wrote ‘Wee have … the Voices and Notes of Beasts and Bird … Strange and Artificial Echoes … means to convey Sounds in Trunks and Pipes, in strange Lines and Distances.’ Yeah, well so do The Lucid Dream.
Why the Artaud quote? Artaud was an avant-garde adventurer, always exploring different artistic possibilities. He wanted to create new sounds, often to shock or even disturb his audiences. I’m not suggesting The Lucid Dream is trying to replicate Artaud. What I am saying is that they’re different to a lot of guitar bands. Most indie bands find a sound that they like and stick to it, making the same album over and over again. The Lucid Dream is open to sonic exploration. Musically they are willing to experiment with their sound and try to push their own boundaries to create something exhilarating for their audience. That is something to be celebrated.
The Deep End is the band’s fifth LP and it pushes the boundaries even further than their previous effort, Actualisation. It’s a mind-altering genre bending pumped up beast of a record with a vast array of dub beats, synth sounds, guitar licks, funky basslines, glitch electronics, techno pulses and fat drum and bass madness. In the current climate there is a lot of critic chatter about ‘lockdown albums’; this isn’t a lockdown album. This is an opening up album – an album to carry us back out into the world of neon thrills, heavy nights and memory-making ecstasy. People need to dance to this record, collectively, in a chaotic mass of sweaty, boozy bodies. It may not be possible right now but hopefully it will be one day in the not too distant future.
The Deep End opens with Coalescence. Coalescence: noun; the joining or merging of elements to form one mass or whole. In some respects that could tidily sum up The Lucid Dream. They pull together different sounds, genres, ideas, influences and merge them to create brilliant standalone tracks but also to form a coherent album. On Coalescence they take acid house, Madchester/Happy Mondays grooves, sprinkle some synth sounds on top and masterfully bring a chunky guitar lick into the mix. As an opening track it sets the tone. This is a long way away from the guitar heavy krautrock sound of their debut album Songs of Lies and Deceit. And yet it still feels like The Lucid Dream; it is very much their sound and another step on their musical journey.
CHI-03 ramps that sound up. This is a big acid house beat accompanied by a hip bassline. There are samples scattered throughout this track and they work well, grounding the song and giving it an additional power (not that this piece was lacking in power to start with, far from it). The Roland 303 does a lot of the heavy lifting here, mixing with the samples to generate an auditory fiend that begs to be danced to.
Leave Me In The Dark delves further still into new territory. It is carried along by a jungle groove and it takes a moment to realise that yes, this is a drum and bass track. The Lucid Dream is making drum and bass… and it sounds good. For the last two minutes Leave Me In The Dark slows right down for a hazy psychedelic sign off full of echo and whoozy reverb. The switch in tempo and the introduction of a slightly different sound palette really showcases the band’s incredible talent and potent musical imagination.
There’s more fat bass on Fight to Survive, accompanied initially by some rather creepy keys. There’s something strange about this song, in a good way. It’s a psychedelic funk stomp that at first threatens to explode and self-destructive. It’s a track of possibilities but ultimately it grooves out to become a sort of hip hop-Lucid Dream hybrid devil child. Imagine 90s rap music decamped to Cumbria experimenting with certain hallucinogenic substances deciding to make a song to document the journey. On a personal note, it’s probably my favourite piece on the album.
Sunrise is a jumpy acid techno song brought to life with a motorik keyboard riff. Essentially this is a club song that you’ll dance to through the early hours with a swaying jawline and an intense love of everyone around you. A Balearic sunrise dance track, you could well imagine this being mixed to last for three solid hours and played at a beach club somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Probably the strangest song on the record is the least strange musically. High and Wild brings the album to a close as the only guitar track. It actually opens up with an acoustic guitar which is a very different vibe to the rest of the album. It feels slightly out of place to start with but as it grows and the vocals arrive it makes sense. This is post-club reflection music. It’s the perfect way to end the journey you’ve been on; and what a ride it’s been!
It isn’t quite the lunatic expressions Artaud came to be known for. It probably won’t be as influential as the old avant-garde maverick. It might not even have been the type of record he’d listen to today if he was still around. But I can’t help feeling that a part of him would have respected this album. He would surely have admired a band pushing their own musical boundaries and creating something eminently thrilling like The Deep End. Alas, even if old Antonin wouldn’t have admired it there will be plenty of people who do. This reviewer is one of them.
The Lucid Dream – The Deep End will be released 2nd April 2021.