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Alexis Marshall: House of Lull . House of When – “nihilistic portraits”

The Daughters singer releases his jarring solo debut LP.

While many perhaps expected a follow-up to Daughters‘ barnstorming return in 2018’s You Won’t Get What You Want, one thing Daughters fans should have expected is, indeed, the unexpected.

The turbulence is led by Daughters mastermind, Alexis Marshall, who releases his debut solo album, House of Lull . House of When.

Whether or not the lyrical content that forms House of Lull . House of When is leftover fodder from Marshall‘s 2017 poetry book, A Sea Above The Pains of Our Youth, is largely irrelevant.

Clean-slate musings or not, one thing is for certain; Marshall‘s nihilistic portraits are plagued by morbid thoughts, backed by splintered instrumentation (much of which was procured by Marshall the Home Depot hardware store), inspired by early Einstürzende Neubauten. If anything, Marshall‘s creations seem more aligned with the Scott Walker and Sunn O))) collaboration, Soused.

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In any case, Marshall‘s serrated spoken-word sequences that form the grotesque patchwork on House of Lull . House of When are some of the most direct, pummelling pieces of art he has gifted us. It’s akin to a tray-full of sharp objects that have been handpicked by some sadistic surgeon before the barbarity begins.

“This warts-and-all approach was intentional. We didn’t have to worry about being precise,” said Marshall ahead of the release of House of Lull . House of When, which was recorded at Machines with Magnets studio with the prolific Seth Manchester (The Body, BIG‡BRAVE, Lingua Ignota).

With help from equally morbid acolytes, DaughtersJon Syverson, and Evan Patterson (Jaye Jayle, Young Widows), the pair, along with Manchester, provide a sonic bed of nails for Marshall to do what he does best. Probe and make his audience squirm in despair.

Alexis Marshall - House of Lull . House of When

“The past is like an anchor,” spits Marshall on the opening Drink from the Oceans. Nothing Can Harm You – a song enveloped in a misty, haunting piano that pierces through an ice-cold wind, exploding into a vulgar no-wave-inspired dissonance that pays homage to Oxbow.

The sinister, noir-ish undercurrent of Hounds in the Abyss reels in paranoia. The blood of this raw open wound drips into the anxious dance of It Just Doesn’t Feel Good Anymore. A song spitting junkyard debris thanks to a succession of ear-perforating saxophone.

On Youth as Religion, again Marshall looks west for his inspiration, as he echoes the abstract poeticism of the Enablers (“God finds you in such places/Keeper of rare bird agents”). It’s Marshall exploring the themes of youth and how we as a society circa 2021 critique nostalgia; always looking forward without truly appreciating the past. The abrasive sister track in Religion as Leader continues these themes, coursing through the veins like broken glass.

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Then there’s No Truth in the Body. An agitated, doom-laden jazz stomp most would associate with The Necks, while Open Mouth spews with killing floor buzz-saw riffs that Marshall usually rides against with Daughters, as he vomits the parting shot, “They don’t dream when they sleep/They don’t walk while they run.”

The schizophrenic soundscapes of They Can Lie There Forever is like a twisted narrative cobbled together from previously discarded journal entries. Which leads into Night Coming. The album culminating in those same apocalyptic pianos which started House of Lull . House of When, but here they are caked in fresh despair, undoubtedly sunken in gloom.

Splintered with anxiety, House of Lull . House of When is existential dread laid bare, like a platter where the caviar is contaminated with nails and the wine is spiked with acid. Alexis Marshall wouldn’t have it any other way, and while many may have been yearning for another Daughters record, after listening to House of Lull . House of When, those hopes are put to rest.

House of Lull . House of When more than fills the void, and then some.

House of Lull . House of When is out tomorrow via Sargent House. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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