LICE announce debut album + share new single ‘R.D.C’

Lice press photo
Photo credit: Rowan Alfred

Bristol group LICE have announced their debut album ‘WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear’ with new single R.D.C. They published the album’s pamphlet (lyrics/story) and revealed the handbuilt noise instrument (Intonarumori) used across it. They also announced the creation of their own label Settled Law Records to release new experimental artists. Watch the video for R.D.C via YouTube below.

A ‘satire about satire’, ‘WASTELAND’ is a concept album written as a piece of experimental short fiction: a wild Burroughsian cat-and-mouse adventure, melding science-fiction and magical realism to call for a revolution in satirical music. Arguing that by unsettling the conventional forms of the song lyric, politicised music can step beyond ‘good versus evil’ narratives to promote more nuanced popular discourse around the implicit forms of bias and iniquity that ail us, everything in ‘WASTELAND’ is always changing. Set in a savage, liminal space populated by shape-shifters, time-travellers, talking genitalia and ectoplasmic spectres, the characters’ moral transformations are paired with typographical transformations: the prose text warping into cut-ups, soliloquies and even plays. Created over two years, the album draws from LICE’s rise in ‘the punk world’ (sharing stages with IDLES, Shame, The Fall, Fat White Family, Girl Band etc.) and eventual disillusionment with the limits of its prevailing ideas.

Following singles Conveyor and Arbiter, R.D.C returns us to The Wasteland: a liminal space populated by structures and half-conscious people from the real world. This episode focuses on a committee attempting to engineer humanity’s self-destruction, intervened in by WASTELAND’s supernatural antagonist Dr Coehn. His proposal is based on Louis Althusser’s Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, which suggests any social formation is sustained by reinforced submission to dominant ideologies, spread through a network of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs): these include the educational ISA, family ISA and cultural ISA. Coehn’s speech conflates this with Pavlovian conditioning, training humanity to react to an ‘attack word’. The disruptive influence of Dr Coehn and The Conveyor is revealed as causing the strange physical transformations in The Wasteland (seen in the horse and ectoplasmic ball in ‘Arbiter’), including disturbances in spacetime: these are manifested in audible jumbled numerical sequences.

LICE Wasteland artwork pamphlet
Album pamphlet (lyrics / story)

Key notes on the album pamphlet text:

(i) The title derives from Jessie L. Weston’s book From Ritual To Romance via T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, which refer to the Grail legend’s recurring premise of a land laid Waste (sterile) and revived by a questor. (ii) The Wasteland is a liminal space erratically populated by structures and half-conscious people from the real world. (iii) The cat-and- mouse chase between the higher powers of the Conveyor and Dr. Coehn is structured in two rough halves: The Intervention, focusing on their interferences in the fate of humanity (their disruptive influence on spacetime is conveyed in staggered/ jumbled/ reversed numerical sequences), and The Dissolution, focusing on the Wasteland’s destruction through these interventions.

‘WASTELAND‘ is a concept album structured as an experimental short story, taking cues from Brian Catling, William Burroughs and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. In the wild, liminal space of the Wasteland, a vigilante known as The Conveyor relates the schemes of the shadowy RDC and flamboyant Dr Coehn to engineer the human race’s self-annihilation: introducing us to a cast of time-travellers, shape-shifters, talking genitalia and ectoplasmic spectres. WASTELAND’s argument is that by reworking the prevailing forms of satirical song lyrics, we can build more nuanced popular discourse around the implicit forms of bias that ail us – the song lyric being the most widely disseminated and commonly ‘engaged with’ form of creative writing there is. In this allegory for crises in society and art (from commodification to ideological state apparatuses), the moral, physical and temporal transformations of its characters are manifested in the text’s transformation: breaking from prose into cut-ups, soliloquies and even plays.

Musically, the album features a ‘noise intoner’ hand-built by LICE, based on the ‘Intonarumori’ of Luigi Russolo and his early 20th century circle of revolutionaries The Italian Futurists (whose vicious writings and manifestos about the art-world formed source material for the album). ‘WASTELAND’ sees LICE draw influence from Bristol’s vital experimental scene, with the album principally written at community hub The Old England. Having performed with projects such as SCALPING, Giant Swan and EP/64 (HARRGA), LICE’s first album sees them reconcile minimalism, prog and industrial in the band’s post-punk framework. The Lynchian closing track Clear features guest vocals from friends Katy J Pearson and Goat Girl’s Lottie Cream and Holly Hole.

LICE formed in 2016, rising to attention with shows alongside The Fall, Squid, Shame, Fat White Family, Girl Band, Bad Breeding and others. In 2018 their champions IDLES, who took them on the ‘Brutalism’ and ‘Unity’ tours, released LICE’s early EPs ‘It All Worked Out Great (Vol.1+2)’on their own label Balley Records, leading to international touring and plaudits from The Guardian, The Quietus and Loud and Quiet, who declared LICE “the most exciting, inspiring and genuinely deranged new guitar band in the country”. LICE created ‘WASTELAND’ between touring over the next two years, influenced by their growing disillusionment with the punk world.

Along with themselves, LICE’s new label Settled Law Records will release new experimental artists.

LICE WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear album artwork
WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear’ track listing

1. Conveyor
2. Imposter
3. Espontáneo
4. R.D.C.
5. Pariah
6. Persuader
7. Arbiter
8. Serata
9. Deluge
10. Folla
11. Clear

‘WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear’ is out January 8, 2021. You can pre-order it here.