You know that an album entitled Doorway to the Cesspit isn’t going to be an inviting, easy listen. Lovechilde, the combined talents of Thomas Eliot Dodd and producer James Dashwood, is all droning, eerie synth darkness and minimalist krautrock tenseness. The sonic panorama fluctuates between brusque punctuations of silence and buzzsaw distortion, while the vocals shudder between Peter Murphy and Nick Cave. These guys gave away a download of their cover of The Who’s “Boris the Spider” for Halloween, and it perfectly captures their aesthetic. The creepy and the crawly are obviously sources of obsession for this London duo.
Listening to this album is an unsettling experience, like stumbling onto some cult’s grim ritual right before a human sacrifice takes place. If you like this album, chances are you’re wearing black right now. I envision a coven of ennui-vexed girls whiplashing their waifish forms in an ill-lit club with songs like “Séance for St. Sebastian” as the soundtrack. As easy as it might be to make fun of the excessively maudlin character of these songs, it’s important to note that the production is crisp and slick, its glossy black finish adorns every song like a leather jacket. Despite their obvious gothiness, they’re still members of the same musical genus as Suicide or The Dirty Beaches, exhibiting shoegaze tendencies alongside Elvis Presleyian swaggering operatic baritone. Though Lovechilde is by no means for the faint of heart, astute listeners will be rewarded at moments when the blur of relentless dread ultimately passes.
For example, on “Author of Dreams”, tinkling guitars lilt for a few moments before a heavy kick drum and spacey synthesized fuzz materializes. It then metamorphoses into a surfy, Dick Dale style riff. The aforementioned “Séance for St. Sebastian” is two minutes of atmospheric gloom before bursting into lyrics shouted with ragged desperation and drumsticks clacking like skeleton bones over the thudding synth graveyard beats. On “Babar” I nearly expect MIA to start rapping over the jittery jungle beat before we return to the spooky organ sounds and the synthesized whirr of Danse Macabre-era The Faint.
There are some slow moments that give the listener a chance to catch their breath, and the guitar solo has a pulse-raising 1-2-3-4 whinny that keep one briefly mesmerized. “Grease” features much peppier guitar and handclaps indicate that maybe the sun is coming out a little bit over our graveyard landscape. Here is where the surreal quality takes full shape, as we’re no longer held captive to the alienation, and the music erupts forth into a strange new vista. There are flashes of synth that sound like the national anthem of some digital videogame nation, reminiscent of Metronomy’s more accessible sound. Finally, “Vile Jelly” is a robot nightmare, stalking your eardrums like a serial killer. Sharp intakes of breath like something out of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” hover over the track, building trepidation. Cocoon and butterfly imagery dot the lyrics, further reinforcing the Silence of the Lambs effect. The sounds do not help diminish the physiological and psychological consequences of my hangover as I listen.
One the more curious mechanisms by which Lovechilde disquiets its listeners is by employing three interludes, simply titled “i”,”ii”, and “iii”. Each takes a sample from Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”, but distorts it like a kidnapper calling in to ransom their victim. The sound is comparable to Dracula whispering sweet nothings to a captive, or Buffalo Bill taunting police after skinning his latest prey. It’s kinda fucked up.
Doorway to the Cesspit is out November 24th via Childe Records.