Tales From The Trenches
(Lumberton Trading Company)
'Tales From The Trenches' is the second release for Lumberton Trading Company by Legendary Pink Dots founder and leading light Edward Ka-Spel, following last years ‘Permission to Leave the Temple’ 10”. It is, of course, only the latest episode in a plethora of releases stretching back to the early 80s by both the Pink Dots, Ed in his solo guise, and in his various collaborations such as The Tear Garden with members of Skinny Puppy. If I were to list all of the albums he has been responsible for, then you may very well still be reading that list by this time next year. With such a prolific output, you would be forgiven for thinking that quality is bound to suffer. However, that's just not in Ed's DNA. Every release has the quality and attention to detail that he brings to everything he does. There is a reason we described Ed Ka-Spel previously as a National Treasure, you know, even if he is criminally unsung in his native land. In common with many acts, he was even more prolific in Covid lockdown, which had the added effect of prompting him (as us) to reflect on a world gone mad. The subsequent advent of the Ukraine war resulted in this album, lamenting the increasing presence of needless conflict, strife, and war. I don't need to tell you that Ukraine is not the only war in town either, making this album feel even more relevant. Indeed, with apocalyptic predictions of impending doom coming from NATO generals, you can pretty much stick a pin into any part of the globe and find a flashpoint wherever you look.
'Tales From The Trenches' opens with the plaintive, low-fi, string-driven '1919' before pivoting into the swirling electro rhythms of 'Archetype'. Sitting at the centre of this storm are Ed's distinctive lyrical twists and turns, delivered in his trademark childlike tones. One track melds into another like an industrial opera, brassy tones and ominously ripping and tearing synth washes doing battle with echoing arppegios, shuddering pianos, ethereal tones, even howling dogs. The effect is both warmly intimate, yet disturbing. "We have nothing left to offer...the damage has been done" is intoned over a dripping and shivering backdrop. It is powerful stuff. At eight tracks this is short for a modern album, but there is no need to extend it just for the sake of it. This is the perfect length. 'Tales From The Trenches' is an album that works in the order it is presented in, and begs you to listen to it as intended, not dip into individual tracks or skip about. 'Tales From The Trenches' is a set of dispatches from the battlefield of despair that is the rapidly disintegrating world order we are witnessing crumbling down around our ears, and you can sense Ed's desperation and disillusionment build throughout the album as he watches helplessly from the sidelines, only able to describe the scene before his eyes, with each day in the media revealing a fresh impending disaster he can do nothing about.
As each track progresses, the sense that things are building towards something dramatic and terrible is unavoidable. The second side of the album opens with the track 'No Show Tonight', and progresses through to the sombre magnificence of 'Platform 5' where we huddle in an Underground station listening to bombs raining down on the City above. Although recorded well before the current war in Gaza, the parallels are obvious. By the time we end the album with 'No Show Tomorrow' with its folorn lament of "what if they had a war and nobody showed up?", hope is all but extinguished. Describing it like this, it sounds like an impossibly gloomy and downbeat experience, and you cannot deny that it is a journey that has no happy ending, yet it is so expertly done and with such a carefully selected range of sounds and tones applied, that it represents a powerful and sublime example of how to represent emotion and mood on vinyl. Armageddon has never sounded so good.
Pre-order now from Fourth Dimension Records