Track Premiere/Album Preview: Dominic Valvona


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.  



Luke Mawdsley ‘Misery Gland’ taken from the upcoming album Vulgar Displays Of Affection, released on 24th July 2020 through Maple Death Records.

For those of you with a morose curiosity you’ll find that Luke Mawdsley’s metaphorical river of consciousness runs deep with it. The former Mugstar guitarist circumnavigates the dark waters of trauma and anxiety on his second solo outing, but first for the caustic experimental Italian label Maple Death Records, Vulgar Displays Of Affection.

Billed as a “cathartic meticulous journey brimmed with emotion and failure”, Mawdsley’s spoken-word mise en scène dictation is masked with a warped and slurred daemonic vocal effect, both menacing and disdainfully as it splashes around in the mire of minimalist industrial electronica and the harrowing flagellations of Scott Walker. Plumbing the depths Mawdsley’s one part King Midas Sound, one part the more deranged examples of a “verbasier programmed” Bowie on the Outside album removed voice pours a lucid string of vivid depictions and despair into the listener’s ears. Today’s premiere track, taken from that upcoming album, is a case in point; the murky generator throbbing and wretched stained ‘Misery Gland’, a vision of Einstürzende Neubauten trading blows with Coil, seers with despondent spoken monotones and more speeded-up demon giggles.

The scene is set with sonorous rings, strung-out tremolo, hammerings and knocks, tight-delayed repetitive drum machine hi-hats, fizzles and a looming threat of synthesized atmospherics. It is a stench as much as a tonal soundtrack that reaps a malady of industrial noise, drifting esoteric blues and the Lynchian. An uncertain, anxious and often sinister creeping discourse on the themes of sexuality and disorientation, this haunted murky generated dungeon music draws from a well of disillusion.

The lyrics themselves either slither through the mulch of a mashed-up brain or almost predatory turn subjects into the lurid and dangerous. There are various play-on-words type track titles, from ‘Vauxhall (Cavalier) & I’ – a space-echoed car boot lubricated with a threatening musk – to ‘A Grudge Supreme’, and a chilling Ry Cooder blues fantasy built around the fictional parody of the Dr. Steve Brule hosted public access psycho-analysis spoof Check It Out! – the naïve Brule character played by John C. Reilly, expunges by happenstance horrifying details of his life story whilst discussing a range of topics. Sometimes despite the pain, distress and that creepiness, Mawdsley can offer a twisted sort of humour with the surreal images he conjures up. And the music does offer some lovely melodious waves, and even the glimmer of something less suffocating.

‘The River Takes It All’ declares the album’s finale; an increasingly distorted caustic and hostile wrangle of a climax with tortuous appeal, the waters of which threaten to engulf. A deeply revealing experience of the lurid, coarse, disturbing and vivid, Mawdsley’s immure vulgar displays rest wearily upon the shoulders. In this cursed time of uncertainty and vehement argument, the pained artist struggles through the miasma of indignity to create a drip-feed of chthonian distress.


Ahead of its release, we bring you the premiere of the album track ‘Misery Gland’.

Maple Death Records · Luke Mawdsley – Misery Gland

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog 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 to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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