Laish – Pendulum Swing

Back in 2008, whilst also playing with Sons of Noel and Adrian, Danny Green formed Laish as a vehicle for his own song-writing. Becoming part of the much-feted Willkommen Collective, at the centre of Brighton’s alternative scene, Laish had released a couple of self-produced albums recorded in Green’s Brighton home, gaining him some great support from BBC Radio. This led to an impressive burgeoning independent career, playing shows both with Laish and solo, out in Europe and as far afield as India and Israel. But, from the sounds of things, by 2014 Green had begun to feel himself slipping into something of a creative malaise. I’ve heard many people speak of similar problems when living in a town that, whilst being full of artistic types, sometimes gets called the ‘graveyard of ambition’ by its own residents. For, while Brighton is indeed a creative hub it is also, unmistakeably, a party town, and one that Green found himself slipping into; “I could feel myself becoming fossilised in Brighton, hardening into the grooves of my drinking and laziness so before I became fully set in amber, I dragged myself away and moved to London.”

It was this move to London, and the hard-hitting reality of having to survive and adapt to a challenging new reality, that drove the songwriting behind Pendulum Swing, this ambitious third album. Green originally ran an IndieGoGo campaign to crowdfund the album, releasing a teaser EP earlier in the year (Songs For Everything). For the first time the band has been recorded in a professional studio, Watchtower Studios in London, and the album has been co-produced and engineered by Dave Gerrard – expertly so, for the album sounds luscious, full and direct throughout. The album is also coming out on cool French independent label Talitres who have also put out records by Brightonsfinest favourites The Wedding Present and Rozi Plain.

Pendulum Swing begins with the building majesty of ‘Vague’; beautifully recorded, every instrument sounds sweet: drums, bass, acoustic, piano and violin working in delicious concert with one another. It’s quite an epic song, over six minutes, it takes a while to introduce the sentiment and hook-line of “I think I feel safe in my home,” but, after an extended guitar solo, it becomes a sort of chorus, repeating, all the while echoing the inherent uncertainty within the phrase. Green doesn’t have the most beautiful voice, but it’s honest and capable, expressing a wide range of emotions but most consistently there’s a battle between optimism and despair.

Next up is ‘Learning To Love The Bomb’ – a key track from the EP they released earlier in the year and one they made a music video for. To my ears it sounds more polished now, as if they’ve worked into the production of the song, adding a few subtle bells and whistles here and there. It may just be that, having not heard the song for months, my ears are picking out fresh delights within the mix. ‘Love On The Conditional’ is adorned with orchestral sounds which could have come from a mellotron, it’s a very pretty sound, while the lyrics seems to be about the, absurd conditions put in place to keep a relationship going once things have faltered. As things get towards the end there are a load of peculiar note choices, which give the sense of the harmonious beginning to unravel. ‘Song For Everything’, the title track from the EP released earlier in the year, is a lovely track that builds up from sparse beginnings, distant ambience becoming slowly more present as the song progresses, with a lovelorn confessional lyric, only for it to be snatched away by an unexpectedly swift fade.

‘The Last Time’ is a real slow-burner, ‘My Little Prince’ a clever and unusual bit of arrangement, where the song lurches from one feel to another as each section passes, taking us on a short journey that is full of twists and turns. Next, the title track ‘Pendulum Swing’, opens with a guitar lick that already conveys a sense of melancholy. It’s a break-up song, after a seven-year relationship – it’s a common time for people to reach an impasse when a long-term relationship doesn’t progress, leading to the phrase ‘the seven year itch’, you can hear the resigned sadness in every word. The repeated chorus refrain of “the pendulum swing of emotion”, isn’t the most obvious of ear worms, but it’s one of the things I like most about Danny Green’s lyrics, he seems to write with the focus on saying what he means, rather than seeking some esoteric, poetic language to obfuscate it.

‘Wrote Of Freedom’ is a solo acoustic number, which shows off a very character-filled acoustic guitar and some excellent playing, with introspective lyrics, again about a failed relationship – perhaps the same story, from another angle. In heavy contrast to what’s gone before comes ‘Rattling Around’, also from the EP, its drip-dripping piano arpeggios pan around your ears as you’re listening, and icy beautiful strings sound lavish and grandiose – and in this context, following on from these two confessional lost love songs, the lyric seems to be about that feeling when you can’t escape thoughts of an old love, who rattle around your head, even when you’re with a new hope. ‘Gambling’ takes things back down to the guitars and voice to begin, and, again contains a brutally honest uncomplicated lyrical sentiment – “I started gambling, I started again/It has become, it has become a problem”. With its sparse arrangement of an electric guitar drenched in reverb and vocals, you might think ‘We Haven’t Made Any Money’ would be a lament to the perceived failure of devoting oneself to a life of making music, which only really bares financial rewards worthy of an income to a lucky handful. However it seems more concerned with the visceral experience of life that can be gained, and the beauty and importance of dancing.

The album ends with ‘Isolation’, again heavily adorned with fluttering synthetic orchestra and sorrowful backing vocals. “And you ask me one more time/ with your hand on my knee/ your words come fast again/ are you really sure about it?/ Well I could not have been any clearer/ I could not have said it with any more clarity”, gives the impression it’s Green himself who has chosen to end the relationship that’s at the centre of this swinging pendulum, a reminder that in the mess when a long-term thing breaks down, no one escapes scott free; being the one driving the nails into the coffin doesn’t make it easy to adjust after the event. Really you get the sense this move to London was a move away from a good thing turned sour in more ways than one. Listening to the album I’d say it has been a potential tragedy turned into a triumph. Laish’s first venture into a professional studio has reaped dividends, and Green’s difficult journey over the last couple of years has fuelled a set of emotionally rich and often beautiful songs. Here’s hoping the record gets the attention it deserves, propelling the band to well-deserved greater heights.
Adam Kidd

See our review of Song For Everything here: