Record Of The Week # 47

September 6, 2018

Curse Of Lono – As I Fell

First impressions bring to mind a Nordic Noir box set: brooding, complex and menacing. It’s as if it was recorded with colour repressed and black and white prevailing. The album’s narrative is often beyond dark and the mood is sombre and serious. However, spending time with this masterpiece enables you to discover the personality of the main protagonist, composer, vocalist and bandleader, Felix Bechtolsheimer. You warm to him and soon subtle melodies spill out and you find yourself reaching the choruses before him. It’s genuinely one of those albums that you could play back to back several times.

“Valentine” starts the eleven-song outing with an industrial beat and a union of voices. Soon a scraping guitar ups the song’s raw edge. This hypnotic paean to a lover involves the unlikely involvement of daggers and bullets. It’s here that Bechtolsheimer’s backstory of heroin addiction seeps through many of the lyrics. He says he’s moved through this phase of his life but had some songs left from his earlier release, Severed,that needed to see the light of day. 

Throughout, the hypnotic and atmospheric rhythm section of Charis Anderson (bass) and Neil Findlay (drums) lay down patterns on a canvas that Bechtolsheimer paints with words that illuminate and challenge, “Kathleen” is such a track:

“Bricks and buildings they don’t mean nothing to me anymore

And the cars driving by they don’t touch me like before

Down in the gutter is where I pretend to be free

They’ve got eyes that shine like the sea”

The throbbing bass-heavy “Blackout Fever” is surely indebted to The Trogg’s “Wild Thing” signature rhythm but with Bechtolsheimer leading a chorus through abstract lyrics of mayhem. Musically the tone of the album lightens and whilst “No Trouble” visits a troubled relationship, the easy pace and melody delight not least with the outro guitar solo and muted horns.

“Leuven” was inspired by his grandfather’s experience of being in a train crash when returning from a football match in the 1950s. The experience left him with mental scars after witnessing the deathly aftermath. The song starts with a personal tone as Bechtolsheimer ‘talks’ to his brother. In the background the soundtrack builds with strings and the dialogue continues. A drum beat quietly starts to give some propulsion to the song and Joe Hazell’s stupendous guitar playing leads the song into an anthem.

“And as the train left the tracks on that December’s day

There were men singing songs about lands far away 

And the women they loved and the lies that they tell

And the eyes of Leuven all turned away

And the sirens they screamed and the kids went to play 

Out in the fields where their fathers fell”

I think I can declare with certainty that As I Fell will make a hatful of end of year lists. The British five piece (taking their name from a Hunter S Thompson book) led by Bechtolsheimer (ex Hey Negrita) have a giant atmospheric soundscape of an album. Whilst this is Bechtolsheimer’s second collaboration with producer Oli Bayston, this is the first withhis current line up. Written and mainly created in London, the definitive versions were laid down at a studio in Joshua Tree, California. The ghostly heat, space and landscape of the desert appear to inhabit the recordings, but this may be a figment of your imagination… 

Bechtolsheimer’s confessional, and often spoken, vocals may possess you like Jim Morrison but for me there’s some of Mark Knopler’s conversational and cadenced storytelling afoot often backed by the fluid and complementary guitar playing of Hazell. 

With Rock dead, or on tour supporting Def Leppard, we’ll quickly and happily claim this for Americana. Rush out and get your copy (preferably on vinyl).

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