In their ever-changing genre conquest for every album, Ceremony have announced their fifth LP, and they’ve immersed themselves completely into the pleasantly somber coldness of post-punk. The record, titled The L Shaped Man, is the furthest their sound has come yet from their Violence Violence origins, potentially averting distortion altogether, and trading up anger for sadness (as noted in The Sopranos, “depression is rage turned inward”). The band made a double music video for the first two tracks, “The Separation” and “The Understanding”, in which they play in smoky darkness, energetic as ever, silhouetted against a backdrop of white beams of light. The images switch from the band to a close-up of a woman’s face lip syncing Ross Farrar’s lyrics, to a faceless couple holding hands, their grip loosening out of their control.
Album opener, “The Separation,” sets a dichotomizing tone of melancholy and brightness, with single-note piano playing a pretty lead in the background for the chorus, while reverb-dampened (but not soaked) guitar hums over steady drums, and a watery sounding bass ferments the uneasiness lying behind the sound. All while Farrar’s vocals, impersonal, but audibly hurt; dronish, but impassioned, belt out, “Can you measure, can you measure the loss?” It’s not so much an Ian Curtis impersonation as it is a humbled recognition of an appropriate departure from his younger growls. “The Understanding” is an even more toned-down drone beaut, lyrically charged with lines like, “You drove through a golden field, fell asleep at the wheel of time.” The gorgeousness of these tracks lie in their patience, one linking to the other in an “understanding,” or a coming-to-terms with a fledgling relationship, the latter song closing with Farrar heartbreakingly singing, “Baby, say that it’s over,” as if to say he doesn’t want the responsibility or reality of its end.
The L Shaped Man is out May 19 on Matador Records.