Aren’t the effects of Covid-19 delays, lack of capacity in the world’s vinyl-pressing plants and congestion-related delays in the Suez Canal a bit like buses? Last week I reviewed a record I’d been waiting a long time for (Turned To Stone Chapter III), and now here’s another one that it feels like I’ve been waiting ages for – L’uomo Nero’s follow-up to last year’s excellent Andiamo Nel Deserto EP.
For those who missed that record (you really should go and check it out) or just need their memory refreshed, L’uomo Nero are a trio from Albuquerque, New Mexico who’ve made the bold decision to start their recording career with a trio of EPs. And not just any trio of EPs – perhaps a triptych of EPs would be more accurate as the three records will be bound by a single, rather involved, concept to do with a supernatural investigation into a woman’s ‘disappearance’. I’m not going to elaborate as, to be entirely frank, I’m not going to pretend to understand the many nuances of the story. To make things even more interesting, the artwork of the vinyl release will include clues and further background to the story. A classy touch. Elle, De La Mer is the second part of this series and brings you a further four tracks of the story.
Although the download was released on the 16th July, the vinyl won’t be available until November, you’re going to have to wait for all the associated goodies, so let’s just focus on the music for today. First up, I should stress that if you’re one of those people with limited/no interest in concept albums and wish bands would just get on with playing, then don’t be put off. As with the first EP, Elle, De La Mer is an excellent set of tunes that you can enjoy in complete ignorance of any underlying concept. Secondly, although Desert Records often seem to bill the record as ‘occult rock’, that’s purely to do with the concept – there’s none of the forced retro vibes or hokey Satan/weed speech samples that the term might conjure to mind.
So… what does it actually sound like? I may have been putting this off, as L’uomo Nero’s sound is surprisingly hard to pin down. I was amused at the large number of genre tags their Bandcamp page includes as there isn’t a simple pigeonhole to fit them in. What did strike me throughout the record is that L’uomo Nero really exemplify everything good about a power trio playing heavy rock: the musicianship throughout is superb. From the busy, inventive basslines of Robson Guy, to the dextrous fills of Luke Seelau, to the perfectly judged guitar playing of Dominic Cagliostro, the band capture that special musical alchemy that you only seem to get with a three-piece. As the icing on the cake, I think I mentioned last time round that Dominic Cagliostro is also an excellent singer with a voice that reminded me of Dave Wyndorf. The likeness is less pronounced this time round, but his charismatic vocals are the perfect accompaniment to the instrumental awesomeness across the EP.
the band capture that special musical alchemy that you only seem to get with a three-piece…
The record kicks off with De La Mer and the first thing that struck me is just how cheerful it sounds. Not goofy or anything, but extremely upbeat considering we’re talking about a record dealing with a missing persons case. Anyway, it’s an excellent track with a bouncing groove and an infectious chorus that should, at least under normal circumstances, be guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I Know is next, and for most of the running time has a gentle, laid-back feel as the guitar works around a simple bass riff before exploding into a big uplifting finish. It could very easily sound like pure cheese, but here it comes across as somehow timeless and charming.
Elle is another excellent track underpinned by oodles of driving bass and busy drumming. As is often the case, L’uomo Nero don’t follow a strictly linear verse-chorus format and the track gradually builds in intensity across its running time. Too Late Too Long finishes off the EP in style. It’s a corker of a track with a definite 90s alt-rock feel that builds to an epic chorus section and a blistering guitar solo – an excellent way to sign off and leave you wanting more.
As with the first EP, my main gripe is that a four-track EP feels too short when the music is this good. As standalone tracks the songs are quality but taken together, the record is so coherent that it feels like much more than the sum of its parts. I’m not sure if that last sentence actually made sense (perhaps ironic given my use of the word ‘coherent’) so I’ll stop there and leave you to go and do the right thing and give this a listen. Run along now.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc