Album Review: W.H. Lung – Incidental Music

Incidental Music

Imagine going into a Chinese supermarket; you could be there for any reason, from cultural appropriation to getting your weekly groceries, working your way gradually around labels and tastes which are not your own.

Now think about naming your band after one, as the Mancunian trio who purloined WH Lung for themselves boldly did when forming in 2017. Since then they’ve lived the veil of ambiguity which the choice bestowed on them, gigging little but gradually building a reputation for complex and intricate songwriting that fuses genres together with a nonchalant lightness of touch.

Sustaining a feeling after all is far from easy in pop music, a notoriously fragile medium that breaks often when pawed at. There’s a sense of wonder then that only one of Incidental Music’s eight tracks clocks in at less than four minutes, a sure sign of a band playing with utter conviction: that opener Simpatico People undulates over a monstrous near dozen is a show of ambition which rivals that of any debut album in recent months.

Hubris is, of course, a quality not lacking in their particular neighbourhood, but to pass off WH Lung as just another dash of local colour who’re all teeth and spray-on jeans would be an almost criminal negligence of the soul. When they whittle down their flowing tunes into kernels of throbbing synth they’re throwing ice at the sun and still trading blows; on Give It Up – a song about panicking about a panic attack – they fade out just as they threaten to cut totally loose, while like mad professors you can almost hear them wiping the last millennium’s dust off the eccentrically urgent WANT.

In these narrower definitions, the structure and sensibility of Mark Hollis and Kevin Parker seem obvious influences, especially on the looser limbed closer Overnight Phenomenon. But there is another perspective to be had, one heard from the motorik hypnoses of Can and Neu, a steady patina over which they extract a British obsession with the absurd – the tea and cake of Second Death Of My Face – with traces of polyester recent history on Empty Room. The latter veers between dusty academic and modern-day Mr. Hyde in tone, a sinful heap of keyboards and splattering drums, the secret out, whatever it is.

More than anything however, this backdrop is in the music of dreams, or being a dream, insubstantial but without boundaries, explorations and exhortations told from above the fog of consciousness. Incidental Music’s vision-in-chief is Inspiration, a procession of folded over verses with guitars in ever more concentric patterns, tempo on the ebb and flow right up to a reverb drowned precipice which yawns in front of the listener from the depths of somewhere far, far close by.

Maybe you are what you shop then, finding a way to make familiar be something utterly alien whilst at the same time mundane for the person next to you. WH Lung have come from nowhere to be this good, or maybe just the next aisle up.

8/10

(Andy Peterson)

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