In 2011 LUH’s Ellery Roberts was part of Wu Lyf, a wilfully mysterious band whose self-funded debut Go Tell Fire to the Mountain was excellent. The band faffed about being clever with PR and marketing and then split. It was an excellent album, a novel, reverb-heavy mix of indie and tribal beats, “a cosmic soup” as NME called it. Despite the swagger of the band, holding Press conferences in tunnels and other tomfoolery, it was a refreshingly straightforward album.
Now Roberts is back, though instead of World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation his band is called Lost Under Heaven, and the music is not as good. It’s still epic in ambition and has a certain swagger but he did all that last time and it was all a game; he was having a laugh at our expense and it’s hard to judge this in isolation.
As with Wu Lyf, the atmosphere it creates is that of a gang of jungle shamen leaping round a fire in the dark, sparks rising to the heavens, all in the grip of intense devotion (or strong drugs) performing earthy songs to a pulsing beat. Roberts has an ear-catching voice, the rasping sound of a man giving his all and then some. The trouble is, the whole is less than the sum of the parts: it sets out to create an ambitious universe of sound, but when you listen, there’s not much behind it, and certainly less than Wu Lyf offered. It’s all drums and Robertsian rasping, but little in the way of substance. Or tunes.
Of the songs, Unites is not bad, as if Dexy’s recorded the soundtrack to a King Kong movie. Someday Come, where he turns the knobs down from 11 to only 9.5, is quite pleasant.
The flaws are illustrated in the sleeve: a well-designed and typographically appealing piece of art in which all the lyrics are printed, but all running together. It takes ages to find any one song; about as much use as nipples on a breastplate.