Review: Lung - "Bottom of the Barrel"

Lung - Bottom of the Barrel
(Self-Released 2016)

I've always found bowed string instruments to be a welcome and underused supplement to an otherwise traditional punk roster of noisemakers: there's the gloomy fusion of mumbled basslines and fiddle wheeze on New Bloods' lone Kill Rock Stars effort The Secret Life, Los Campesinos' orchestral twee-pop squeals and the ectoplasmic melodies that float through Tattle Tale's "Glass Vase Cello Case". As much of a pleasant surprise the occasional viola riff can prove in such a context, it proves rarer that entire punk outfits are built entirely on a bowed foundation - Cincinnati-based duo Lung is a band that just does that: their debut demo tape, Bottom Of The Barrel, grates sandpaper drones of heavily distorted electric cello against a spare grindstone of motorik patterns and well-timed blast beats. Kate Wakefield's frenetic arrangements form bassy sheets of no-wave noise, filling out their soundscape with impressive depth despite their lack of instrumental support. The demo's title tune conflates a fragile weft of 50's doo-wop harmonies with a volcanic layer of sludgy bass tones that seem to scuffle with their adjacent bursts of percussion that accelerate and stop at will, It refuses to let its listener settle into any sort of groove, texturally, emotionally or rhythmically, and instead opts to send them rolling down a mound of sonic bricolage. It's by no means a comfortable listen, but it's an overwhelmingly exciting and intense collection of ideas hurled at the microphone at once. Equally energizing is closing cut "Peaches", a more straightforward hardcore track built upon sinuous chords and equally dizzying vocals. Lung's demo tape is fast-paced, disorienting and original - everything a good DIY punk record should be.