You have to admire a press release that suggests that the new release by an unknown artist is “The White Album for a new generation”, and the push for Lailien is nothing if not enthusiastic. Indeed, it has a lively quote from the artist himself:
“It’s an ode to language, imagination and self as multiplicity. ENSŌULAR is an exploration of the deepest, most pressing existential concerns of the human condition at our particular moment of historical crisis. It is both the recorded trace of my exploration and the archeological expedition itself for the listener to experience firsthand. I wrote it to no longer be contained by conventionally sanctioned semantics and metaphysical structures because culture has failed us. Simultaneously, I knew I had to make something that would bring joy and vivification to anyone who actually listened to it while honouring the material basis and very real struggles of reality. What is the album’s endgame? Nothing short of actualizing one’s soul and achieving nirvana. Life is immensely difficult and tragic but art can catalyze, transform and heal in utterly revelatory, enlightening ways. That’s what my favourite artists gifted me and what I seek to offer in return”.
Impressive stuff. Unfortunately, these grand ambitions fall apart immediately, as opening tune Blue Love reveals itself to be a catawauling slice of nonsense, a clumsy pop electro mess with a vocalist – that’ll be Lailien – who doesn’t so much sing the song as strangle it into submission. There’s better on the album, but we have to take that in context – Elf Hat is a positive masterpiece by Lailien standards, but a messy retro pop mess by any others. Lailien cites My Bloody Valentine, the Velvet Underground and Lana Del Rey, and to be fair, I can – strangely – see the latter at least, but in the sense of a pub drunk taking Richard Harris as his inspiration. There may be some sense of originality at work on numbingingly awful tracks like The Singularity, but none of this stuff remotely equates to what we might normally know as music. Any sense of entertainment to be found here is strictly of the ironic sort.
Five years is a long time to waste, and it’s hard to imagine that during that time, Lailien – also known as poet Brad Shubat – wouldn’t have listened to this mess of a collection of recordings and thought “maybe this isn’t where my talents lie”. But apparently, that moment of clarity never arrived, and so we are left with this unholy mess of an album. As incoherent, indulgent and nonsensical rubbish, there’s a certain fascination to be had from this recording – who doesn’t like a slice of outsider self-importance? But those of you looking for musical enjoyment are best off going elsewhere.