Lawrence English - Cruel Optimism LP


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Label: Room40

Our Review:

Sonic density is a key component to the blustery ambient-noise compositions of the Australian Lawrence English. His recent catalogue of recordings favorably parallels that of Tim Hecker's cathedrals of sound and haunted evocations. Liminal droneworks such as these lend themselves to open-ended metaphor and allegory, yet English has been focusing his recordings through the lens of critical theory. For Cruel Optimism, the conceptual framework is defined through his interpretations of the book of the same title by theorist Lauren Berlant, whereby she maps out the conditions in the current geopolitical systems that have lead to the failures of social-democracies to deliver what they promise. These fantasies, desires and fetishes toward money, status, career, etc. are ultimately trojan horses that will undermine those who put all their faith into such objects. Couple this with ideas about trauma and crisis as being permanent states of being, rather than disruptions from the ordinary, and the context in which English applies such concepts is deliberately turbulent.

Both inviting and threatening, Cruel Optimism emerges as undulating grey swathes of sonic smoke and fog, through which shadowy rhythms pulse and blindingly brash crescendos erupt. He cites both Swans and My Bloody Valentine as inspirations to the aesthetic choices he made in constructing a visceral, physical sound through densely compressed layers of harmonic distortion. Those precursors shouldn't be taken synonymously with English's vernacular, but rather as a similar methodology through his ability to sculpt his drone/noise into a dialectical aesthetic that is majestic, awe-inspiring and beautiful.