Review Summary: inter(re)viewThe following is a two-way interview between myself and sputnikmusic dot com contributor BlushfulHippocrene. The setting: a dog park somewhere in Australia. Time of day: twilight. The synopsis: Chicago natives, Loma, release their self-titled album on the 16th of February, 2018, and it resonates with two friends enough that they decide to write about it. May contain traces of: grovelling, verbosity, pretentiousness enough to make a philosophy major sick, and (hopefully) some worthwhile analysis of the aforementioned album...
Blushful: Loma have been described as a band “obsessed with… sound.” How valid a description is this"
Jack: Actually a lot more valid than one might think. I think we both scoffed at that bio originally, though you were quicker to pick up on its pertinence than I was. But the more I listen to S/T (and I mean really listen, not the buzzfeed-quizzing-while-foreign-sounds-play-in-headphones type of listening), the more appropriate, the less ambiguous, that statement becomes. In a way the record kinda reminds me of Stranger In the Alps. You have these simple, elegant progressions embellished/elevated by creative production choices. Sundogs’
acoustic lilting dissolves in the Sunday afternoon sun. The dog’s panting in the background is a lovely touch. Loma channel Laughing Stock era Talk Talk. To revise the above tagline: Loma are a band “obsessed with idiosyncratic sounds”, or even just “...obsessed with minor details” would work. I’m pretty sure Black Willow
is my favourite song precisely because these details make the song feel alive despite the vast open space at its centre. In it: Cross’ words, echoing, the kind of voice you’d expect to hear descending from sun-bleached skies. What do you think the theme of the record is" And how do you think the prevailing atmosphere communicates this theme"
B: We did dismiss it, huh" In all fairness, the original quote was “Loma’s self-titled debut reveals a band obsessed with songs as
sound,” but I think the point stands: clumsiness – pretentiousness – aside, the band’s attention to detail within the album’s soundscape illuminates, or shapes rather, its central themes and meaning. I think the “point” of Loma
lies in its attempt to morph – imbue – experience (felt narratives) into something sonic and tangible. That might seem a tad reductive: “So the point of the album… is the album"” Well, yeah, kind of
; or, more so, the album takes form as an experiment in evincing (sonically, physically, externally) the profoundly and inextricably internal. The opener (Who Is Speaking"
, for the audience at home) marks an admirable attempt at emulating the searching found within Cross’s words (“What does the day have to do with the night"”
); the descending strings toward its backend answer in response to her repeated “why"” with an endearing tilt of the head. Dark Oscillations
, its irregular, sometimes accelerating kick evoking the whirring and thumping of blood, is as much a representation of the “the night” here as Joy
is “the day”. A bunch of themes are evoked on Loma
: nature, longing, light and dark; but I think its essence lies in the attempt itself. That is, the album seems most concerned with how
it presents/explores its themes.
Take I Don’t Want Children
, the band’s most effective and affecting song (don’t @ me). While it does, at first, seek to reproduce the wistfulness found within Cross’s own soft-spoken susurrations (“I don’t want children/ Even though, if I did/ I would want them from you”
), before long it seems to develop a mind of its own, forcing her to the confront the implications of this declarative statement. A scene is painted – one of children’s reliance, smiles – before it’s torched (cue: longing). I don’t know, though: what kind of role do you think the lyrics play on the album" Are they as important as the melodies themselves"
J: They’ve nailed the synergy between lyric and melody here, I think. Definitely “as
important” -- no more, no less. A change in melody telegraphs the significance of a lyric; a lyric enhances the poignancy of a melody. I mean,“I kiss the ground” in Relay Runner, dude; Cross’ voice is coloured a few shades darker when she sings that line -- signifying the kind of determination and persistence that the song revolves around in the first place. As for the other half of that relationship: the eponymous refrain in Black Willow
. Do I know what the black willow itself represents" Hell no, but would I listen to that phrase sung on a loop until my soul has been wrung dry like the dirty old sponge that it is" Indubitably. The lyrics, I think, communicate a sense of longing, yearning; you get the sense that something important is lurking outside this record’s peripheral vision. I think the marriage between the melodies and the lyrics illustrates this idea wonderfully, and it sets Loma apart from the washed-out indie folk crowd (crowd" Somehow such an inapposite word for such an introverted scene, oh well). What do you think Loma do differently to similar bands, like Daughter, and how does it make them special/exciting to listen to"
B: Oh man, that Daughter comparison. Excellent catch. (“Washed-out indie folk,” though >:[.) I think it’s as pertinent as it isn’t, and that’s important: there’s a lot about the vocal melodies in Dark Oscillations
that remind me of Elena Tonra, from the bitter monotone of the verses, to the soaring, albeit restrained nature of the chorus. The atmosphere itself has an iciness to it, akin to Daughter’s Not To Disappear
. I think the difference between the two bands, however, lies in the parameters by which each confine themselves. Whereas both bands dedicate themselves to the potent evocation of these atmospheres, these soundscapes, Loma are so much more comfortable with allowing themselves to drift. Often what tethers these songs is a subtle, even incidental character: in Sundogs
, its the base notes of an acoustic; I Don’t Want Children
would be little without its brittle melodies. Daughter, on the other hand, more often than not revolves around Elena as a singer-songwriter -- careful, often rigid song structures, around
which its atmosphere is situated. Loma’s
use of sound feels deliberate -- each detail intentional -- but also the band aren’t afraid to throw in detail for little more reason than “it feels right”. Of course, songs like Black Willow
are a lot more fixed in their structure; and it’s in these moments I see more of an alt-j comparison -- a willingness to experiment within sometimes rigid pop frameworks. You mentioned Stranger in the Alps
, also an apt comparison, though I think Loma
takes things one step further than the climax to Scott Street
, or even Smoke Signals
. It’s also just ***ing good
. Speaking of Phoebe Bridgers, though, do you think there’s any kind of sonic progression to be gleaned from Loma" How important is Who Is Speaking" as an opener, and Black Willow as a closer"
J: The record doesn’t show its hand prematurely and there’s no huge, cathartic pay off as it draws to a close either. But alas, the sequencing is no less scrupulous for its lack of immediacy; quite the opposite, provided I’ve pieced this thing together correctly. But yes, right, okay, of Who Is Speaking"
: it’s important in beginning the record on two parallel lines. Night and day -- sol luna -- will never embrace, and the gap between them is exactly where longing dwells (as much as your point blew me away, if I had to pick a tangible theme, it would still be longing). And it’s funny you mention the “incidental” tether that anchors songs, because I think it’s also true for the record itself; the “sonic progression” just wanders. There’s no rush but there is
direction. S/T is dotted with enlightenments, epiphanies (see: Relay Runner
) that nudge the band towards the finish line, but they always settle back into a rhythm: whispered revelations, staged landscapes on the brink of dusk. One only realises that S/T has reached its denouement when it’s nearly over. The mark of subtlety.
As for Black Willow
, there’s no great light at the end of the tunnel, no life-affirming crescendo. There’s not even a conclusion, which corroborates your point. ”I make my purpose on the road”
is a line that reverberates back through the record. It seems to affirm that, while we (me, you, Loma, the reader) may never kill the yearning in us, we can deflect it. You said “Loma’s essence is in the attempt itself”, and Black Willow
literalises this in a couplet. Loma doesn’t offer us the moment where the lines converge (i was never good at geometry) but it reaches for something more substantive: catharsis. Funnily enough, it sneaks up behind them as they’re looking elsewhere.