Our Daily Bread 457: Ed Scissor + Lamplighter ‘Joysville’

July 13, 2021

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Ed Scissor + Lamplighter ‘Joysville’
(High Focus Records)  15th July 2021

From one winter of discontent to the next, the dystopian visionary collaborative pairing of unique wordsmith Ed Scissor and atmospheric soundscaper and sparse beat maker Lamplighter navigate and survive yet another nightmare miasma. Together again, though methodology wise (and not just because of the pandemic restrictions) working apart in different locations, the duo provides a sullen, brooding, resigned commentary on lives lived in ‘lockdown one’.

Probably aggrieved and anxious enough at the height of the initial panic back in March of last year, as this new album shows, both artists’ are numbed by the time the groundhog daily routine of Covid variants hits the second and (most probably) third lockdowns. However the ironic entitled Joysville was produced over the internet during the first wave of restrictions, and compared to the unflinching and darkly moody post-Brexit 2016 vote album, Tell Them It’s Winter, the subject matter is on a whole new level of apocalyptic doom.

A concept album that follows a certain thread of disappointment, loss and isolation, this vivid if often worn-down delivered soundtrack features Ed’s rich untethered and highly descriptive lyricism and Lamplighter’s signature minimalist bed of perfectly placed deep techno and leftfield hip-hop beats, bass and sound environments. It’s possibly the best record they’ve made too: most candid and honest.

This time around the process was approached differently, evolving into a complete work from initial instrumental sketches. But then the strain and rich material of such a remarkable, once in a century, event can inspire such grand concepts, no matter what. And Joysville paints a both bleak and disturbing vision of England in the grip of a pandemic; though by the end of the album a mournful church service announces a less than bright emergence from a climate crisis, a hundred years on in a charcoaled land riven by rising oceans and floods. From one disaster to the next, that two-part finale points towards the augers of The Road: an unceasing acrid rain drenches the populace that’s left. That same rain falls a lot during the course of the album, both marking out the passages of time and used as a sort of bad omen. It appears and pours down on the brief ‘One Year Later’ passage for example, the chocked engine of which metaphorically represents the constant stalling promises of lifting lockdown and return to a normality that never arrived.

Despite the album’s spacious soundscapes this is a world of claustrophobic anxiety and stress; an inner city dome of grimy lit empty motorways, disturbed character portraits, uncared for “Burger King tumble weed” environments and online paranoia. Within that framework a whole lexicon of personal connections, memories of attractions and love, and far more sinister, menacing dramas – one of which, ‘Picture A Day’, features an ambiguous one-way mobile phone conversation on the beach that turns sinister and violent when we hear a woman squeal, the sound of broken glass and a number of deadly shots from a gun ringing out.

This partnership works extremely well, with Ed weaving in a mix of trap-like staggered rap, unguarded soliloquy and more soulfully sung lines over his foil’s pocket calculator Kraftwerkian and Japanese imbued synthesizer waves, rays and arpeggiator, and lingering piano and static hums. Great lines are too numerous to pull out of their context, but Ed is able to poetically wind a whole cosmology of language around some of the most mundane actions, woes and, almost so insignificant as to be the most important, tactile descriptions of life in a dragged down gig economy.

Joysville encapsulates the divisive, paranoid times with sonorous chimes of lament and truth: a truly incredible embodiment of unease and lockdown fatigue. An unsettling but important work, this is the duo’s most evocative and creative album to date.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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