LICE WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear Settled Law Records
Bristol’s LICE are proud outliers among the city’s fertile post-punk scene, treating dissonance like a raison d’être. True to form, their long-awaited official debut album WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear is never predictable, coming on like an unholy alliance between This Heat and Art Bears. Frontman Alastair Shuttleworth – energetic yet enigmatic – has a signature snarl that ensnares the listener, whether it’s high in the mix, or allowed to languish at a menacing rasp. Credit too must go to guitarist Silas Dilkes, who is equally at home essaying the stentorian thrashes of Conveyor and pained jangles on R.D.C. alike.
That said, like stopped clocks being accurate twice a day, LICE occasionally lock into more approachable dance rhythms – most notably on Folla and Persuader. The latter resembles King Crimson’s Sartori in Tangier recast in Wire territory with minimal house-inflected beats. Closing track Clear is set to a gritty drum machine beat, with Katy J Pearson along – joined by Goat Girl’s Holly Hole and Clottie Cream – spinning a gossamer backing to Shuttleworth’s guttural deadpan. Yet while all this might suggest an air of deathly despondency, the opposite is true: LICE’s debut is a welcome lease of life for British avant-rock that plays with expectation at every turn.