“Light up / and have a thought that leads to nowhere…”
What the fuck… this Lolina album is brilliant. Part existential murder mystery, part stoned London travelogue, few records – few anything – capture so well the exhilaration and chaos and emptiness and absurdity of semi-rootless, semi-privileged life in Zones 1-6. It’s a world away from the dissolved-girl dub worries of Because I'm Worth It and a quantum leap on from the INNERESTING but frequently irritating Relaxin' With Lolina and Live In Paris. The Lolita 10” was pointing in the right direction, but musically The Smoke is on another level: an inspired, crazily compelling and properly NOURISHING, pure-pleasure palimpsest of classic UK DIY art-damage, deadpan 90s R&B/trip-hop tropes, rock-hard grime/avant-dancehall riddims, ecstatic keyboard tone-float and a kind of digressive, semi-improvised alien lounge-jazz sensibility (?!) that threatens to dissolves even the toughest beat and bleep patterns into a semi-improvised, ectoplasmic ooze. Wahey. The influences are easy enough to unpick, but they're beaten into shapes you haven't quite seen before. No lo-fi obfuscation either, the production is stunning: lucid and high-def and underlining the boldness and brightness and BOTTLE of the songs/playing/arrangements.
Going on the track titles alone, The Smoke is linked to Inquiry & Collaboration, L’s recent performance piece with Johanna Ulfsak, about “a private detective disguised as an art and design student from Central Saint Martins”, and there are plenty of other London signifiers too, from the blurry St Pancras station on the cover to ‘The River’, a paean to the open-sewer murk and majesty of the Thames that grafts wild eski / Urban Hero string-stabs onto the kind of sinewy bass-driven meta-metal last heard on Tricky and Martina’s ‘Black Steel’. Oui chef! The gleaming suicide-note synth-pop of ‘Murder’, the bedsit Timbaland bounce/bump of ‘The Missing Evidence’, the mocking S-M diorama ‘Style & Punishment’, the fucked cabaret monologue of ‘Roulette’…it’s all fire.
The Smoke came out digitally earlier in the year, but thank god for this self-released vinyl edition – when the servers melt, this is one you’ll wanna reach for to remind you who you were, where you were, what all this nonsense WAS.