LTO – Storybook (Injazero Records)

The release of the previous album by LTO, The Number From Which All Things Come, in 2016 prompted me to wonder whether it truly was the most perfect and reflective album for those tumultuous times. At once contemplative but also prone to vicious outbreaks of sonic violence. Storybook may, in fact, be even more timely. It is also an intensely reflective, inward-looking piece of piano-led electronica but, possibly, even darker. Whilst the earlier album did have some more raucous tracks like ‘Bodhran‘, here is almost entirely sombre. Beautiful but…muted.

Hailing from Bristol, LTO does have elements that reflect the trip hop lineage from that city, but, if anything, this collection is even more claustrophobic and oppressive than some other south-west luminaries. Searching for a descriptive word, one trips up on claustrophonic. A neologism of sorts but one which fits perfectly here.

A track like ‘When‘ leaves one positively gasping for air with its sonorous keyboard punctuated by an alarming honk and marching percussion. A free and easy style of arrangement adds to the disorientating effect.

While ‘When‘ leaves one almost queasy, others are so delicate as to be charming…whilst still having that elegant, internal sadness. Opener ‘Change‘ pitter-patters along with barely heard voices and globules of synth, all the while with the lightest of melodies. It’s a disconnected collage of space and sound that rather remarkably comes together.

Vocals, or snippets of vocals, appear sporadically across the record. Again though, they’re almost whispered in from a different dimension, let alone the room next door. Ethereal parts of the whole rather than a song as such, up against that nagging piano and metallic shards of sound. It all adds to the feeling this is an album of the dark and for the dark.

Another great album by a real talent hugely deserving of even more attention. It won’t necessarily cheer you up much but it casts a majestic shadow with just the odd hint of light that carries it all the way through. A state of the nation in nine tracks and possibly even surpasses the previous release with a somewhat astonishing grace and restrained power. Remarkable.


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