Wednesday, March 15, 2017

EP Corner: List of Equipment by Lusterlit

Lusterlit are two people - Susan Hwang and Charlie Nieland - who write songs about books. This fun little collaborative project grew out of the Bushwick Book Club, a loose collective of NYC-based songwriters who come together once a month for what the Club's website describes as "an hour-long orgy of book-related songs and book-inspired food and drink". It's like a regular book club, but you have to write and perform a song about the book instead of just talking about it (which I imagine makes things far trickier for the people who just come for the wine and only pretend to have done the reading).

Both Hwang and Nieland have released collections of their own work in the past, but the List of Equipment EP (which came out a couple of weeks ago) is Lusterlit's first release as a duo. It features five different songs about four different books:
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  • The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
At this point, I should confess that I haven't read *any* of the above books - I did skim a brief summary of each one on Wikipedia before writing this blog post, but my knowledge of List of Equipment's source material sadly ends there. However, even I am aware that this is a pretty varied selection: you've got a gory Western, a French cookbook, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi classic, and a magical realist superhero novel.

The high level of musical variety found on this EP should therefore come as no surprise. For a recording made by just two people (plus the odd guest vocalist here and there), List of Equipment is a remarkably colourful listen, and Lusterlit do a great job of capturing perhaps the best thing about reading: the thrill of hopping from one universe to the next, encountering all kinds of situations and stepping into the shoes of a completely different person with each paperback you pick up. Ceremony, for example, is very evocative of the vast, brutal Tex-Mex desert that serves as the setting for Blood Meridian, while The Day of the Triffids is an equally effective sonic representation of the creeping horror that lurks within the novel that shares its name.

Better still is List of Equipment's title track, a jazzy number that perfectly encapsulates the chaos and the creativity of the kitchen and somehow uses Julia Child's best-selling recipe book as the springboard for some delightfully nihilistic life advice. "Non-stick emotions, non-stick sadness" indeed.

"When you're feeling bad and you need a hand against the doomy forces, cheer up! We're all just walking corpses!"

At the tail end of the List of Equipment EP are two songs - one sung by Hwang, the other by Nieland - about The Fortress of Solitude. This closing combo is arguably the EP's crowning moment because, in serving up two different takes on the same book, it demonstrates that even a single work can breed an infinity of unique worlds when it's received by different readers. Flight, Hwang's Fortress of Solitude track, is a funky bass-led corker, while Nieland's Genius of Love sounds more like an old James song with its spaced-out sound and baggy drum machine beat. Same book: two vastly different musical interpretations.

The List of Equipment EP is available to buy from Lusterlit's Bandcamp page.

No comments:

Post a Comment