There must be something about bands from Atlanta, Georgia and the surrounding area that choose to record in London during the winter. REM recorded Fables of the Reconstructed in 1985 and thoroughly despised the experience. Here Lowertown, aka duo Olivia O and Avsha Weinberg, managed to arrive as another lockdown arrived in England, with the tunes inspired by the U.S pandemic lifestyle, to record as we struggled with another enforced quarantine. Fortunately, out of adversity came this dark and twisted masterpiece of lo-fi gems, glinting in the gloom. Is it an E.P? Is it a Mini Album at seven tracks? Who cares? It’s brilliant.
Production responsibility lay at the feels of Catherine Marks who has helmed the bridge for, amongst others, Foals and St Vincent, which gives clarity to the record that still keeps the lo-fi aesthetic that often only comprises of Olivia’s vocal and Avsha’s guitar. There is the claustrophobic feel of anxiety that the past 18 months has produced, that it has been created in a tinderbox of an emotionally introverted nature.
There is a gorgeous morning-after-the-night-before brittle quality to ‘Clown Car’, an element of chaos and shambolic irreverence that could be irritating but is instead incredibly endearing and effective. Olivia’s laconic revelry wearied vocals of someone who hasn’t been to bed, draped over sun-dappled arpeggio guitar as morning breaks. The most recent single ‘Seaface’, is the rolling waves of a grey, wintery seaside panoramic view across the ocean, from one side of the Atlantic to the other. The vocals are incessant like sea spray from a violent sea, battering your face, leaving salt on the lips as a reminder “I can fend for myself while you listen to the crows/watch them peck out your eyes and take your soul.”
The song ‘The Gaping Mouth’ is so gentle and beautiful with almost spoken whispered word delivery from Olivia over acoustic fingerpicking that then becomes angry and frantic. Distorted flourishes punctuate the delicateness, and then engulfs and smothers everything “You are the iris of my eye.” Layered and looped vocal scales introduce and create the backdrop for half of ‘Burn on my Own’ which then disappears to allow a menacing organ and dissipated drums to take over.
‘Debris’ is contradictorily upbeat and almost jaunty. It is a light relief that allows the record to prevent being bogged down in constant reflection and melancholy, much like our recent stunted life has been interrupted by occasional pockets of joy. ‘Grass Stains’ follows a classic American alt-rock template but the intrigue is maintained by Olivia’s autobiographical lyrics and wonderfully understated singing style that could be mistaken for a lackadaisical approach but is more like a storyteller, a raconteur that belies their tender ages.
She is most animated on the closing track ‘Sunburnt’ which suggests a thawing and optimism that will prevail and continue into their next release. Avsha’s complex guitar work underneath the vocal is perfectly pitched and doesn’t get lost or conversely overwhelm the voice. Superb.
Out of adversity comes hope and beauty and something new. Let’s hope for a full album of glistening gold like this.