Diabolical – Lounge Act Jam (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Genres will only get you so far. The most interesting and revolutionary art attacks are made by people who have either torn up the rule book or perhaps never knew that there was a rule book to be followed in the first place. I feel that the wonderfully named Lounge Act Jam was never given the rule book, or if they were I have an image in my head of them thumbing through it from time and trying to suppress a giggle. What if a revolution happened and only one person turned up to try and change the world? What would that private revolution sound like? What’s with all the questions? Well, perhaps it would sound a lot like this.

Diabolical is a strange and beguiling collection of songs built largely around a chiming acoustic guitar with various drifting sounds and delicate motifs, hazy sound washes and eerie vocals swirling around that grounding, six-string core. And considering this music revolves around a guy with a guitar, this is anything but “guy with a guitar music”, if you know what I mean. You can banish all thoughts of a skinny jeaned, behatted, busker with complicated hair and designer stubble singing earnest and poignant songs that they have forged from their experiences garnered during their recent gap-year travels to find themselves. Lounge Act Jam sounds like it always knew where to find itself (right where it left itself) and uses music to reach out into the world and touch hearts and souls, not least his own,  rather than feed egos and get likes.

The album kicks off with the bruised and brooding sounds of odd off-beats and wailing sonics before settling into a sort of trip-hop groove with Pluto Waits for Nothing, a jarring and jubilant mission statement, cavernous and claustrophobic at the same time. From there things tend to wander more acoustic paths but still shift genres as the need arises. Idea of Me is a fairly straight-forward slice of rhythmic pop but tortured and torn from the inside, Memories combines busking acoustica with dream-pop sensibilities and Live Through Spring wanders into more deft and delicate territory.

At it’s most spacious and fey, Diabolical reminds me of something that may have been found hidden away in the back catalogue of the late great Mark Hollis, feeling perhaps akin to personal acoustic sketches for tracks that would eventually be built up into the full Talk Talk sound. Destiny Paradise in particular wanders those same mercurial paths that might one day find Lounge Jam Act following in such hallowed footsteps. Who needs conformity when you can have creativity, why follow when you can lead…or better still just wander off in such odd directions that no-one is ever brave enough to follow in your footsteps?

And amongst all of this singular and original sound you stumble across songs like Afterparty which could easily be imagined in the hands of some slightly left of mainstream pop prince or R&B diva from the modern crop. You never know, stranger things have happened, the history of music is full of tunes being plucked from the quiet backwaters and rebranded as a pop classic.

Music as art? Emotion made into song? Sonic watercolours that are as much about the background canvas as the paint that is applied to it. All this and more? Perhaps? I really don’t know. (And what’s with the questions again?) Who needs answers when you can just exist in the moment absorbing something strange, beautiful and mystifying? Above all Diabolical sounds like something transient, something on the verge of change or dissipation, something fragmented that captures one specific moment in time never to be repeated. I guess that’s the point really. Is it?

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