Lil Ugly Mane’s return sees him create a record of incredible emotional charge.
Dropped out of nowhere on the 12th of October, Lil Ugly Mane’s new album is certainly his most adventurous. Travis Miller is an artist of insane range; having made everything from black metal to satirical industrial hip-hop throughout his career, and even having an alias dedicated to a magazine called Clowns and Browns, focused on clowns and faeces. Understandably, his work isn’t for everybody, but his cult following has grown intensely thanks to the internet’s sharing of his work. Miller is an artist of great personal influence on me, too, being one of a key trifecta of artists (alongside King Krule and Earl Sweatshirt) who have not only helped a great deal with personal hardships but served as a key influence to my own experimentation within art.
The main project that I focused on last year was his one record released under the Bedwetter alias, which still holds a spot as maybe the single bleakest hip-hop record ever produced. Miller’s unique perspective and modes of expression mixed with this palpable bleakness got me through times of intense anxiety and helped me to try to transform some of that inner angst into a poetry book. So perhaps this review will be a little biased… but hey, who isn’t biased towards their favourite artists?
Having spent some time in silence, only releasing two singles to tease this very record, Lil Ugly Mane returns with his boldest record to date. Departing far from his established style as an industrial/experimental hip-hop producer and rapper, Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern (to be shortened from now on to Volcanic Bird) is a far lighter album in its sound, but it maintains the crucial Ugly Mane bleakness in its lyricism. Seemingly taking inspiration from artists as widely ranging as The Beach Boys, my bloody valentine, Duster and probably a thousand artists I have never and will never be familiar with, this record combines a new, far more accessible instrumental style that creates dreamy textures and beautifully cloudy tunes upon which Miller sings about his struggles with his mental health.
The first track that really stood out to me was ‘COLD IN HERE’ which uses gentle guitar riffs and a repeated whistling sample as Miller asks the listener to ‘open up a window, get it cold in here’, seemingly forcing himself to be uncomfortable as he feels that he doesn’t deserve comfort. This track is followed by ‘STYROFOAM’, an incredible song built up from dazzling 50s and 60s pop samples that sees a muffled Miller sing about it being ‘always midnight, when the day shift never starts. I just pick fights, and fall asleep in parks.’, detailing feeling trapped within a cycle and becoming self destructive in his increasingly desperate search for escapism by any means. ‘DISCARD’ sees Miller talk about work never being done, feeling exhausted, calling himself ‘the enemy of progress’.
For a man whose social media presence has for a long time consisted of videos of him feeding ducks and shots of the countryside, Lil Ugly Mane’s return as a deeply melancholic psychedelic pop master is a somewhat surprising one, but his inclinations towards experimental music (in particular shoegaze) gives this record a crushing oscillation between ethereally gorgeous sounds and intensely moving lyricism. It’s a record so emotional that it can be difficult to articulate its power, but it’s undoubtedly an LP that comes with the highest of recommendations to those familiar with Lil Ugly Mane or not.
Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern is currently available on Lil Ugly Mane’s Bandcamp, linked here.
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