Premiere: (Track) Luke Mawdsley ‘Higher Plains Suffering’

April 21, 2022

Track Premiere/Album Preview: Dominic Valvona

PHOTO CREDIT: REBECCA HAWLEY

Luke Mawdsley ‘Higher Plains Suffering’

Taken from the upcoming album Luke Two, released on the 29th April by Spine Records

Emerging from a turbulent period of cathartic anxiety, reflection, the Merseyside artist Luke Mawdsley sets his voice free from the “verbasier” programmed-like demons-in-the-head vocal effects of his previous solo album, Vulgar Displays Of Affection, to wander an esoteric and seedy, bloody lyrical vision of the high plains.

Whilst Luke mark one was a masked, warped version; a seething, predatory slurring spoken word mise en scene caught in a miasma of pain, Luke Two lifts the veil a little on a most lurid, sleazy and tortured form of abyss circling sonnets.

It’s a strange, idiosyncratic counterbalance of alien Morricone vibrato and ethereal cooed Western scores and heart of darkness, post-punk guitar wielding and supernatural palpitations that envelops, sustains, Luke’s ‘carnal journeys and poetic excesses’.

Edging into ‘Rosa Mundi’ John Balance and Rosa McDowell territory, Luke’s both shadowed and encircled by the apparition and siren lulls, harmonies of the diaphanous Rachel Nicholas and Gabriella Rose King. Rachel makes an appearance on today’s premiere, Higher Plains Suffering; a surprisingly melodious transmogrification of Alan Vega, Charlie Megira, and Crime And The City Solution (both the Berlin skulk and Western reinvention periods), and the lurid dark comedic descriptive wonderings of Alan Moore, Pompey Jonathan Meades and Scott Walker: “You could do worse then to wear my brains home, in your bonnet”.  

In an alternate dimension, Blood Meridian meets the spacey-reverb indulgences of, as the label Spine Records press notes put it, ‘a shattered libidinal economy’. Rachel’s vapoured tones against Luke’s on this drifter’s meander across mirage terrain sound almost Cohen-like.

Taken from an incredibly lucid, often far more melodic and beautiful then you’d assume, album of incipient stirrings, one person’s purgatory is another’s unconstrained creative paradise. Hallucinatory echoes of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s dream-realism symbolic El Topo share room with otherworldly portals and the all-too real depressive, bleak traps of a run-down, unloved English seaside town. Projecting across a both plaintive and eerie Western panorama, the signature twang and expansive evocations of Morricone, as channeled by the Bad Seeds, Simon Bonney and Hellenica, seem to offer some tenderness to the butcher’s bone and gristle, the blood-in-piss confessionals; the menace and heavier toll of Brian Reitzell and Jóhann Jóhannson’s scores.

The “house of aggressive tailors” scene set ‘Pomegranate Seeds In A Matchbox’ has the cylindrical, grinding machine presence of Liars, or better still, Aaron Hemphill’s Nonpareil, yet also a hint of David Slyvain. Despite what may have come to pass, the search for identity in a hostile, divisive climate, where everyone lives life through the prism of a screen, Luke surpasses the brilliance, morbid curiosity of Vulgar Displays Of Affection with something that approaches a true self: well, at the very least with one layer of morose and demon effects removed.

There’s, as I’ve already mentioned, an esoteric atmosphere. But not in the sense of the gothic, nor true horror: even if the album includes quite suggestive titles, ‘A Butchers Tide’ and ‘Trauma Control’. Because ringing out like a cry, or astral plain observational deck expression from Manuel Göttsching’s guitar are scenic levitations and pleasant twists. The instrumental ‘Citrus Mirror’ brings a sort of levity, a beauty like the desert rose. Shovels dragged across concrete, crushed confidence and useless augurs may say otherwise I know, but there’s something deeply dreamy about this whole album.

Seething tensions and dissonance are pulled into entirely unique realms of realisation, pathos and deranged sexual provocations. Luke Two could just be Mawdsley’s best statement, piece of work yet.  

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