Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities
In the esoteric world of the occult, there is often an opportunity to embark on a journey that means embracing the darker elements of consciousness. The idea is that this ordeal will act as a transitional process, changing the individual in a significant way.
It’s what writers such as TS Eliot and Robert Anton Wilson referred to as journey through ‘Chapel Perilous’, which might appear unnerving or of supernatural origin, but is necessary for the traveller to work through to develop and grow.
On their 2019 album Non Disclosure Agreement, Leg Puppy touch on this theme via ‘Tears’ (which employed the vocals talents of Voi Vang) which offered a psychedelic reverie referencing samsara – the Buddhist concept of the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Non Disclosure Agreement (see TEC review previously), saw the anarchic outfit clearly changing tack in the style and mood of their music. ‘Tears’ was perhaps an outlier on an album that generally had a harder edge to it, care of tracks such as ‘Nominate 10’ and the strangely unsettling ‘Speak, Talk, Speak’.
In essence, that album was Leg Puppy moving through their own ‘Chapel Perilous’, a journey that continues on new album A Guide To Social Distancing. “I can tell u that this is our Bowie Low album” offered Leg Puppy’s Darren Laurence to TEC on the album’s inspirations, “I went to Berlin 3 times last year. The track ‘Detroit’ is a reference to places where iconic artists are from. Blues guitarist Robert Johnston sold his soul to the devil in Mississippi, Muddy Walters Chicago, Berlin techno & Motown and the god of punk Iggy Pop & the Stooges from Detroit.”
It’s an apt comparison. Although Social Distancing doesn’t bear much resemblance to Low from a musical perspective, it does perhaps offer up some of that European moodiness via the various tracks that make up the album. But Leg Puppy are rarely dour or indeed boring in delivering their particular take on music. This is a collection of music that embraces dark techno, beats, synth soundscapes and some social commentary wrapped up in one intriguing package.
Opening number ‘Gravity’ is a buzzy, cosmic workout that immediately untethers the listener from any familiar landmarks. It’s an ethereal slice of electronica which gives the album an overture of sorts.
‘266 (Petter Potter)’ offers a disconcerting electronic endeavour. To keep things off-kilter, it also features some sampled dialogue from a child ruminating on an LSD trip, offering a comparison to a religious experience (the “266” in the title refers to the number of popes that have been ordained throughout history).
Leg Puppy takes a step into sleazy synth territory on the broken erotica of ‘Kinky Emoji’ (“Do you like to party?”). Cleverly, the composition has both an emptiness to it as well as something seductive at its heart.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned ‘Detroit’ has a similarly dreamlike quality to it. Percussive beats echo from the depths on a number that’s all synth anxiety.
That thumping club quality is carried over for ‘Paycheck (Take my Life)’, a similarly anxious outing that plays with themes of gambling addition (“Take my house, take my wife, take my car, take my life”). It’s also the longest track on the album, clocking in at nearly 7 minutes, although it never outstays its welcome.
There’s a more machine-like aspect to ‘Lights Out’ (which utilises the talents of Autorotation’s Vaat Da Faq). Against a low-key electronic arrangement, a monotone vocal delivery drops in two-word phrases with a strange, cold quality (“Lose job/Turn key/Mood swings/Last time”). The result is a strangely bleak affair that has an uncomfortable quality to it.
‘Thank You’ is an equally unsettling number which seems like an inverted take on the congratulatory messages echoed in modern life (think: NHS clapping initiatives or contrarian press commentary). It suggests an element of insincerity lies beneath those platitudes from some quarters and is perhaps the most on-point slice of social commentary on the album (The robotic delivery of the lyrics also seems to be a continuation of the ideas explored on Non Disclosure Agreement‘s ‘Speak, Talk, Speak’).
A Guide To Social Distancing ends up being a frenetic fever dream journey which somehow seems to encapsulate Leg Puppy’s desire to not merely point at a culture going through its own ‘Chapel Perilous’, but to actively accompany it through the darkness. As with any period of darkness however, there’s always light at the end.
A Guide To Social Distancing is out now.