mark william lewis - Living Music Album Reviews

mark william lewis - Living Music Album Reviews
The London singer-songwriter’s debut LP frames big themes—the heaviness of life and death, the duality in ecstasy and pain—in skeletal, atmospheric indie rock.

mark william lewis often seems to be lost in thought. Over the past couple of years, the London singer-songwriter has established himself as one of the most pensive and probing artists in the constellation of experimenters loosely orbiting Dean Blunt and his World Music Group label. Like some of the elusive artists in that foggy scene, lewis hasn’t shared much biographical information publicly. Still, his songs reveal enough: a fixation on the heaviness of life and death, the intertwined nature of intimacy and disconnect, and the duality of ecstasy and pain. In a low, creaky voice that feels like it was made to carry the weight of these heavy thematic concerns, he mulls and meanders, finding joy, most often, in the searching.

Living, lewis’ first full-length, begins deep within one of these meditations. Opener “Coming” joins echoey, yearning guitar lines with floating double bass and lewis’ rumbling whisper, which offers a series of foreboding thoughts that culminate in a grim proclamation: “There’s so much violence/So much fucking stress.” The exact source of his turmoil is never made entirely clear; nor does he ever sound too bent out of shape about it. 

This mood—downcast but not defeated—continues throughout. On “Enough,” lewis considers the toll of interpersonal turmoil, describing emotional suffering over a trudging, languid arrangement. Elsewhere, on the sparse, dreamy “The Heat,” he mutters about natural forces in a way that feels opaque and threatening. Still, no matter how ominous his subject matter, he trudges onward, with a sigh, because what else is there to do? His voice sounds burdened at points, but he mostly seems at ease—describing the weight of the world while knowing he has little choice but to keep shouldering it.  

Across the record, the production holds a mirror to his muddled headspace in a way that feels moving and vulnerable. On previous projects, lewis traded in tightly wound percussion and desperate, distressed guitars that recalled tense indie-rock acts like Duster or Alex G, but on Living, he spaces out a bit more. On the dreary, wordless “Romantic Horror,” he begins with mangled arpeggios that coalesce into an elliptical instrumental that’s heavy on repetition and suggestion. Guitars are clouded in stuttering delay, basslines feel like they’ll drift off, unmoored, into the ether. Melodies relapse and recur, in a way that evokes Bark Psychosis’ hazy post-rock refractions or Vini Reilly’s celestial guitar explorations. These moments make the times that lewis sings his gruff-voiced koans all the more affecting—they paint him as a figure emerging suddenly from the mist, carrying wisdom deeper than even he knows.

As much as lewis reveals where his head’s at, he never really fully offers any answers to the biggest questions he asks, and the ambiguity invites listeners to obsess alongside him. That quality is exhibited most clearly on the closing title track, where he fixates on a person he can’t get out of his mind before pausing briefly to offer a stray question: “How good can it get?” Judging from the title, he’s talking about life itself. But it’s not entirely clear whether he’s asking from a place of abundance or dissatisfaction—whether he thinks that things can and will improve, or if he’ll be stuck feeling the way he’s feeling forever. The thought repeats throughout the song, never getting any clearer. And yet he still perseveres—the only way to find out the answers, he seems to suggest, is to just keep on living.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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mark william lewis - Living Music Album Reviews mark william lewis - Living Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 09, 2023 Rating: 5


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