The interaction between different art forms can always allow for a much more immersive experience than simply sticking to one. With this in mind, LYR's first release '33 1/3' is more than just a musical piece. A collaborative project featuring poet and novelist Simon Armitage and Liu Bei's Richard Walters and Patrick James Pearson, LYR (or Land Yacht Regatta) have managed to create something that's sinister and soothing in equal measure.
While Armitage has collaborated with Walters on a track before, starting a musical collective with a London-based indie band isn't necessarily the first thing you'd anticipate from the poet who has been appointed Oxford Professor of Poetry, among several other honorary positions and awards. Liu Bei's Walters and Pearson, however, admit to being long-time fans of Armitage's work and say that something like this has been stewing for a while already.
This planning seems to have paid off: if '33 1/3' is anything to go by, LYR have a very clear grasp of what they want to do. This is despite the fact that the track was recorded across England, with all the members scattered around the country. Walters notes: “Despite the distance, it felt important to have a physical element in place, so a portable field recorder has been going back and forth, allowing Simon to send us ideas before we all delve into the musical side of things...” There is still nothing disjointed about the track; everything falls into place, creating a truly mesmerising mixture of contemporary and nostalgic.
The concrete side of this nostalgia comes from the hissing and crackling of a vinyl, apparently the B-side to Joy Division's Closer. Indeed, '33 1/3' is based on Ian Curtis's final moments, making it sinister and ominous. Towards the end, the track grows into something more comforting, even dancier, playing with what is reminiscent of Bon Iver -esque reverse sounds and muffled backing vocals that bring to mind Radiohead. While this creates a soundworld that is somewhere between AIR and John Hopkins, the poetic element sets it apart and takes it to a new, gloomier dimension.
How this approach will stay fresh and interesting across an entire album remains to be seen - LYR are currently writing and recording their debut - but for now, their project offers something uniquely immersive and intriguing.