Years ago, in a cold, dark cavern beneath Los Angeles, an ancient coven of witches met in secret to bring to this world something it had never seen before. Born from the sacred fires of magic and witchcraft, summoned from the greatest depths, Little Red Lung came to be. Actually, it didn’t happen like that at all, but it might as well should have.
Little Red Lung is Zoe-Ruth Erwin (vocals/keyboard), Ali Nikou (guitar), Nathan Kondor (drums), and Rob Hume (bass). There is something about them that is ethereal and otherworldly–somewhat like a waking dream or an imaginative walk through an eerie surreality. The voice of Zoe-Ruth Erwin is chilling and cuts through the concocted cacophony of instrumentation. The band’s self-titled album marks its first release.
The album creeps in with “50 Fingers,” a slow, haunting dirge that marches steadfast into layer after layer of dissonance. Erwin has a way of balancing the wire between complete discord and something that is clean and polished, which one might think would not work out so well, but she somehow manages to marry the two effortlessly. Breaking through the murky clamor, “Ink Blot” takes a narrow and more uncomplicated path than the previous track, with shimmering, poignant vocals. “Rare Bird” and “Fang” carry much more of a melancholy tone than the rest of the album, which seems to be driven mostly by a bitter disdain. “Fang” stands out more than the other tracks; stylistically, the song is quite a beautiful-sounding bit of music, without complicated layers or a thick atmosphere. “Into a Landfill” is a ballad of bitterness, marking the central theme to this release.
Erwin has this frustrating, trembling passion to her voice as she speaks of ripping up memories and throwing them away: “I shred it all into a landfill / So stop asking me.” The final track, “Strangling Tree,” starts with nervous, racing, mallet percussion with a fat brass that forms slowly, keeping a pace that chases the heartbeat-like tempo, finally catching up to it and ending with three desperate cries of “strangling tree.” This might have been the most interesting piece on the record–purely in how it was crafted, as it sounds very much like the song itself is caught in a deadly chase to try and save itself from its inevitable end.
Little Red Lung is marvelous at creating an atmosphere in the listener’s mind, and there is definitely a lot of merit in that. Where the magic fades, however, is when it comes to the overall lyrical substance. Most lines do not seem to go along with the next, sometimes even thematically, so that the message is a mixed sort of a hodgepodge of pretty-sounding words and phrases. Perhaps I didn’t get the memo, and the lack of clear definition in songs’ words are meant for listeners to define for themselves. With lines that mostly don’t carry weight and only sound good, the listeners are left wanting more. For instance, the lyrics in the song “Ink Blot”: “You think that you’re a storm cloud in heat / Vertebrae, a thousand daggers deep / The wet air cracks your mouth to speak from battles, line’s long suffering / In worn custody burning the seeds.” It’s difficult to make any sort of connections between the lyrics.
The less-than-striking lyrics remain my only major criticism. Though most of the lyrics seem nonsensical, the music itself is still defined enough to create masterful something on its own. For a debut release, it’s an impressive record, and it’ll be interesting to see this band progress and build off of this material. Little Red Lung has the makings and potential for something great, maybe it’s just a matter of getting a hold of some witches and having them shake their black magic around a little.