The dictionary defines “clutter” as “a crowded or confused mass or collection” of “scattered or disordered material”. Neither of these terms could be applied to Laki Mera’s debut album in terms of its music. It’s totally devoid of clutter and extraneous layers and is an impressive, ambitious and cohesive recording that stands up to repeated listening as a complete album. I’ve listened to this album so many times in so many different settings and still find the music and songs so damn difficult to pin-down or describe. It truly is one of those records that seems to appear, perfectly formed, from nowhere to quietly insinuate itself into your life and blow you away. Laki Mera’s music doesn’t leap up and down yelling “here we are, we’re important”. It seduces and pulls you into its eerie, gorgeous, subversive world, at times soothing you, at others unsettling you as it moves from stark electronica to more lush passages, mixing guitar, bass, drums, cello, piano and keyboards with Laura Donnelly’s beautiful voice.‘She’s A Day Later’ opens proceedings with its deep bass and beats and Donnelly’s disembodied but angelic wordless vocals. It’s an incredibly atmospheric song, full of melancholy and longing, but also warm and strangely moving. ‘Signals’ fractured introduction reminds me of dubstep with its clipped rhythms and submerged sounds. It’s a song of several parts, full of dramatic tension that threatens to unravel as Donnelly sings “Several times it’s gone too far / Desperation holds me down / Who am I to draw attention?” as the external world threatens to tear her apart. ‘How Dare You’ is quite dubby. It’s mix of deep bass and percussion is vaguely reminiscent of early Massive Attack, particularly the way the minor chords give way to the soaring instrumental sections.
‘Weighed Down’ begins in a very low-key fashion, all crackling, distorted sounds, an echoing heartbeat of a bass drum, sonorous keyboards and a gloriously understated vocal:
Weigh down, weigh down, weigh down
Working on to long always
Risking nothing several times a day
Away, away, away
Definition of the boredom
I have made.
Then the cello and drums lift the song giving it a glorious, buoyant feel that takes my breath away. ‘Velcro’ is a weird, tiny instrumental interlude, very raw sounding, which leads into ‘No Motion’ with its eerie, dislocated introduction, gentle verses and radiant chorus. Donnelly’s lyrics and the music give the song a sense of the pull between stasis and movement, of travelling fast without going anywhere. The cello adds to the songs epic feeling, as it does on many of the songs on Clutter. ‘I’m Talking’ has an almost music box feel with its tiny pattering percussion and repeated keyboard motif moving circularly in and out of the eerie noise. It moves with consummate ease between abstract soundscapes and moments of heartbreakingly lovely melody capturing the feeling of moving from sleep to wakefulness. This lush instrumental combines subtle shifts in sound as it builds up into an enervating climax.
On ‘Seagull’s Nex’ Donnelly’s voice combines with crisp drumming and piano in a very restrained, graceful song. She sounds old beyond her years, battered by the experience of life as exemplified in lines like “Take the tension / Lean back into it / You’ll find the pieces there”. Her voice and the music move effortlessly from the gentle verses into an elegiac, soaring chorus. ‘Zeuhl’ is an ambitious, cleverly constructed, largely instrumental song. It’s restrained introduction slowly gives way to a more epic, expansive sound driven by an inventive combination of bass, cello and drums. It ends in a melee of sounds with Donnelly’s wordless vocals competing with a male voice chanting the title before drifting out. In lesser hands ‘Zeuhl’ could end up sounding overblown and pompous but Laki Mera pull it off with great skill. ‘To Be Seen’ has an almost bossa nova feel to its rhythms, giving it a lighter feel, though it starts off almost acapella with Donnelly singing
You’re gonna get some more
Have you noticed where you are?
Lyrically ‘To Be Seen’ suggests taking time to gain your bearings, to observe the world before making rash decisions and rushing into situations where ‘past examples prove your movements to be wrong’.
Tracks 11-13 contain only 7 seconds each of silence, perhaps suggesting a time for reflection? The final song ‘Bumble B’ is gorgeous, a mournful coda for Clutter. It’s very disorientating as the melodic elements drop in and out of the mix, competing with a variety of unsettling sounds and changes, offering up more questions than answers and refusing to let the listener simply drift off.
With Clutter Laki Mera have produced a fantastic, magical album full of gorgeous music that seems to effortlessly fuse experimentation with a glorious pop feel. Of late I’ve been listening to several diverse but equally lovely records a lot that seem connected without being similar. These are Burial’s Untrue, Seefeel’s Quique (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and Rachel Unthank And The Winterset’s The Bairns. In terms of style and genre they are very different but each one creates their own universe, drawing on other influences but creating a sound that is original, moving and utterly delightful. Laki Mera have, for me, achieved this as well. Clutter is an album of amazing depth and beauty that hits me in the head and in the heart. I honestly could not recommend this record more. It deserves to be heard by anyone who loves music with a sense of adventure. In amongst the clutter and deitrus of much of contemporary popular culture Laki Mera have produced an exceptional album that shines brightly.