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LUH Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing Mute

“I am done,” said Ellery Roberts, when he abruptly left WU LYF in 2012 and effectively dissolved the band in the process. “I am bored of the most challenging thing in WU LYF being deluding myself of its relevance.” Roberts broke the news both to their fans and apparently his bandmates publicly and without any prior warning. As much as he did not seem a chap averse to melodrama, he had a point. WU LYF’s cleverly-constructed cloak of mystery – chaotic live shows, an initially bare-bones online presence – seemed like such an affront to the press in the information age that by the time their stellar debut Go Tell Fire to the Mountain did surface, the music had almost become an afterthought, with attention instead largely focused on the group’s refusal to play media ball.

Roberts has laid fairly low ever since, but the refreshing thing about this return as LUH (stands for ‘Love Under Heaven’) with audiovisual artist Ebony Hoorn, is that the music is basically all we have to go on. Roberts’ voice, a scratchy howl that seldom sounds less than impassioned, remains remarkable, and his penchant for sonic drama survives intact from his WU LYF days, too. Opener I&I builds from a piano introduction to an all-encompassing sonic swell, the murky Beneath the Concrete lays an urgent vocal over a thumping beat and a bed of ominous synth, and Here Our Moment Ends, a desolate soundscape of electronic loops and sparse guitars, provides the platform for some tense storytelling from Roberts. Hoorn is a terrific foil for Roberts vocally, with her clear, soft tones taking the edge off of his considerably less varnished approach, and whilst there’s missteps over the course of what is a sprawling LP (the choppy AutoTune of $ORO is a case in point), this is a stirring first effort from a band that’ll hopefully outlive Roberts’ last.