LUH (which stands for Lost Under Heaven) is made up of Ellery Roberts and Ebony Hoorn. Over the past two years, they have been releasing music, art, photography, film and manifestos into the world, including 2014’s Unites video and the expansive Lost Under Heaven music and artwork package at the end of last year.
Roberts’ name might be familiar as the primal-voiced frontman of the Manchester band WU LYF whose “heavy pop” sound was created to “shape a new model for the angry youth”. They disbanded in 2012, less than a year after releasing their widely-acclaimed album, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain. Hoorn is an audio-visual artist based in Amsterdam, where the pair now live, and directed the video for their new release Beneath the Concrete. Their debut album, Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing is released on Mute Records on 6th May and was recorded on the remote island of Osea in Essex. It has been produced by “The Haxan Cloak” (a.k.a. Bobby Krlic) who is known for his experimental, atmospheric compositions and his work on Bjork’s “Vulnicura” album.
Roberts’ huge roar remains the focal point with LUH and it has to be said, his vocal is an acquired taste. He is almost daring your commitment as a listener, none more so than on the opening track I & I when he challenges in the first few minutes, “If you’re not ready, forget it, lay down and fall back to sleep”. But his voice is counter-balanced and echoed by Hoorn’s and as the pair sing about daybreak, voices intertwined, the instrumentation behind them gradually builds, becoming more euphoric and alive : “There’s life in this early morning/ A life that you want to lead” – it seems an apt choice for the opening track. It’s a show of promise and new beginnings.
Beneath The Concrete is their latest single release from the album and it’s pretty epic. It’s a big anthem with huge, hard – beating drums right from the start as Roberts’ gravelly voice soars all over it – “All we are is people trying/All we are is people trying to live”. It’s a dramatic listen, almost tribal and continues to build in intensity with stirring synth orchestration then a brief reprieve before more hard hitting drums expand the song to bursting point before an almost cinematic fade. The next track Future Blues changes the mood as Hoorn takes over on main vocal, accompanied by a dusky, languid guitar and “wave- like”, glistening synth sounds. Her noticeable Dutch vocal has a soothing quality which washes over you. Roberts re-unites with her three quarters of the way through but doesn't take over - this song is hers and it is gorgeous right up to its echoey, ethereal end.
Someday Come is a heartfelt track with Roberts accompanied by the sombre sound of a cello, the gentle strum of guitar and wistful violin which adds a poignant melancholy. His vocal is a tad overwrought than needed here but it’s a beauty of a song, especially as the chorus of synth builds, Roberts gives in and Hoorn takes over almost healing his angst whilst the strings join her in sorrowful union $oro is a bold and busy track - both Roberts’ and Hoorn’s programmed vocals are backed up by a plethora of electro grunge which include distorted drum beats that add intensity to the song before a brief respite. What then follows are short bursts of “violin-like” synth sounds which blend with Roberts’ urgent vocal and together the orchestrations gather momentum until the song becomes a crazy, climatic cacophony of distorted techno beats. The sounds continue to vibrate before gently echoing away and it’s almost like a sonic storm has passed.
Loyalty slows the album down again and this is a really cool duet. A shimmering synth and mellow guitar open the song. Hoorn adds a softness that compliments the torment of Roberts’ vocal. The military beat of a drum adds a sombre quality as does the short stabs of cello. The album closes with another highlight. The Great Longing begins with a gentle strum of guitar, piano and Roberts’ tortured vocal sounds more tamed, allowing the listener to hear the melody and what is happening behind him. Again, Hoorn joins with him, the track takes on a Celtic quality that sounds evocative with the addition of “pan-pipe” synth and as the song fades, one can’t help but feel that they've been on one musical journey of grandiose goth, electro-grunge and Indie Rock.
Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing is overall an intriguing, impressive listen, huge in scope, full of orchestrations and atmosphere. It can try a little too hard at times and more use should be made of Hoorn on vocal but it’s a promising debut.