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Mark William Lewis often thinks. Over the past few years, the London singer-songwriter has established himself as one of the most thoughtful and crafty artists in the constellation of experimentalists revolving around Dean Blunt and his World Music Group label. Like some of the more elusive artists in this murky scene, Lewis hasn’t shared much biographical information publicly. Still, his songs are revealing enough: a fixation on the gravity of life and death, the intertwined nature of intimacy and detachment, and the duality of ecstasy and pain. In a low, raspy voice that seems made to carry the weight of these heavy thematic concerns, he broods and meanders, finding joy, most often, in the quest.

LivingLewis’ first full-length begins deep in one of these meditations. Opener “Coming” joins echoey, wistful guitar lines with a floating double bass and Lewis’ rumbling whisper, offering a series of foreboding thoughts that culminate in a somber declaration; The exact source of his confusion is never entirely clear; nor does he ever sound too bent on it.

This mood, depressed but not defeated, continues throughout. In “Enough,” Lewis looks at the effects of interpersonal turmoil, describing the emotional suffering of a sad, sad arrangement. Elsewhere, on the sparse, dreamy “Heat”, he mutters about the forces of nature in a way that feels impenetrable and menacing. Yet, as ominous as his subject may be, he sighs forward, for what else is there to do? Her voice sounds strained at times, but she mostly seems at ease, describing the weight of the world while realizing she has little choice but to continue to carry it on her shoulders.

Throughout the record, the production holds up a mirror to her tangled headspace in a way that feels poignant and vulnerable. On previous projects, Lewis traded in tight drums and desperate, anxious guitars reminiscent of tense indie-rock acts like Duster or Alex G, but Living, he goes a little further. On the bleak, wordless “Romantic Horror,” he opens with tangled arpeggios that coalesce into an elliptical instrumental that overburdens repetition and suggestion. The guitars are clouded with a stuttering delay, the bass lines feel like they’re about to dissipate into the ether, unfettered. Melodies repeat and repeat in a way that evokes the hazy post-rock refractions of Bark Psychosis or the celestial guitar explorations of Vinnie Reilly. These moments are made all the more powerful when Lewis sings the koans in his gruff voice; they paint him as a figure suddenly emerging from the mists, carrying wisdom deeper than even he knows.


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