Slum of Legs is the post-everything band you didn’t even know you’d been waiting to hear. The six-member Brighton band have just released their first single Begin to Dissolve on Tuff Enuff records, the record label associated with queer/riot/DIY music night Riots Not Diets. On these two songs, the band pulls in a wide variety of elements from uptempo pop, to goth side post-punk, the rhythmic repetition of punk forebears krautrock / psych rock and what sounds like horror film soundtracks to create a beautiful and affecting form of dark pop.
The A-Side, “Begin to Dissolve”, is the tale of a ghost told with an uptempo gypsy punk feel whose violin lends a spooky Universal Horror vibe to the song, which ends with the narrator’s realization that they’re a ghost and are beginning to dissolve. The ending of the song is harrowing as everything collapses into chaos. It’s really quite distressing in the way that best horror films can be, drawing you into the world of the narrator only to experience that narrator’s destroyed world as it reaches a chaotic and destructive climax in its final moments. The violin’s bow attacks the strings, the vocals fall into the maelstrom of the guitar and synth while the drum maintains its time, never once slipping in pace. That it’s wrapped up in a song so catchy is even more unsettling as you’ll find yourself saying “I’m beginning to dissolve” when you’re alone.
The dark mood carries over to the B-Side “Razorblade The Tape”, as the repeated chorus of “I won’t let you get away” drills directly into your brain like weaponized goth pop. “Razorblade” uses the same tools to produce an entirely new tension in the listener, one which builds and builds toward a climax without ever providing a release, giving the illusion that the song continues long after the last note has evaporated. This is a more immediately accessible “pop” song as it bounces along merrily while potentially describing something horrible and obsessive.
These darker sensibilities extend to the physical object itself as the band member photos either recall turn of the century physical mediumship photography or in the case of drummer Michelle (also of Blue Minkies) “The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall” while the record itself is made up to look like a spirit board / Ouija board. The discordant rearrangement of Brutalist architecture of the art itself calls to mind the impossible geographies of MC Escher while also a rearrangement of familiar geometries, which is as good a description as any for the music that Slum of Legs is making.
Slum of Legs really benefits from the higher production values afforded by this release. Last year’s demo was far too muddy, with lyrics and instrumentation were often lost in a melange of noise. Each instrument is clean and singular even when the songs approach a wall of noise technique. The repetition of lyrics are important to establishing mood for this band, as important as psych / kraut repetition and exploration of groove, and that everything is intelligible is very important in bringing the audience into the fold of this band.
All modern music is a conversation with the past, yet rarely do bands find new ways to say old things in the conversations. Slum of Legs has stated that they have several more songs written, and my only hope is that they mine this same vein while also continuing push into new directions. Until that time, these two songs will most likely haunt you when you’re alone in your apartment at night.