Fueled by Krautrockian excess, abrasive free-jazz and no-wave guitar assaults (think Sonic Youth, Bong, Swans, Jarboe, This Heat et al.), “Top Ten Zen Meditations” from Mancunian noise collective LOCEAN comes as impulsive, exposed nerve of an album that feels like trapped in a post-punk trance, showcasing its ability to mutate from sharply angular to atmospheric. Mesmerized by the band’s unique inventiveness and shsrp translations of many base inspirations into unconventional textures, we’re stoked to give you the first listen of their moody, psych new single “Clicking Fingers”, along with ind-depth interview below.
Top Ten Zen Meditations is released worldwide on 11th December 2020 through Artificial Head Records. PRE-ORDER HERE. Artificial Head Records is a record and tape label based in Houston, TX. Started in 2009 they have released 30+ records and tapes over their existence and in 2019, the label was named Label of the Year by The Houston Press
Formed in 2012, Locean found its collective feet through a shared passion for genre apocalypse; live improvisation, raucous live shows and sonic exorcism.
Signed in 2019 to the Houston-based label Artificial Head Records (Baby Birds, Funeral Horse and Terminal Cheesecake et al) for the release of their exquisite album, Chav Anglais, the experimental Mancunians return in December with their most exploratory recordings yet; Top Ten Zen Meditations.
“Top Ten Zen Mediations is a return to the early, unhinged phase of Locean,” explains vocalist Lauren Bolger. “It documents two phases of the band. Two line-ups of people, two different sets of tension and intimacy in the room. Therefore, the whole album has a dual contrasting energy running through it. It harnesses our live performance really well and we think it’s the closest you’ll get to actually seeing a Locean show.”
Like their creative counterparts/collaborators Gnod, Locean has attracted an impressive cast of players down the years. Intuitive but at the same time meditated, impulsive yet acutely aware of the spectrum of influences they’re traversing, they have become a psychedelic machine free of any regular scheduled programming. Krautrockian in spirit and rawer than an exposed nerve, they pull out abrasive free-jazz and no-wave guitar assaults and encapsulate everything that’s great about bands such as Sonic Youth, Bong, Swans, Jarboe and This Heat.
“Is it The Birthday Party? Is it Scratch Acid? Is it Turkey Bones & The Wild Dogs? No, it’s Manchester’s LOCEAN! This experimental post punk/noise rock collective are creating off-kilter music that’s epic on so many levels.” CVLT NATION
“Be assured, though, that the spacious psychedelic no wave draped across Chav Anglais feels like no- one’s side project, but a focused, intuitive unit.” THE QUIETUS
Formed in 2012, Locean found its collective feet through a shared passion for genre
apocalypse; live improvisation, raucous live shows and sonic exorcism.
Interview with Jefferson, Daniel, Lauren, David, and Ben of the band LOCEAN:
Can you explain to me the inspirations behind the arrangement and lyrics for ‘Clicking Fingers’?
Jefferson: As with all Locean music, ‘Clicking Fingers’ was conceived, composed and arranged with a strict adherence to chaos theory. You could ALMOST say, it wasn’t conceived, composed, or arranged AT ALL. This is not the case. The music is allowed to develop, without pre-conception and without guidance, carefully co-ordinated in real time, via psychic link to Lauren Bolger’s uncontainable expressive thought organ.
Daniel: The music was what came from pressing record and chatting very little about what we wanted to make. It exists mostly as spontaneous action. I believe the words may have been written before. Having the pre-written words is what grounds the recording in a familiar level. Nothing really that comes from human hand is spontaneous without the effect of its environment or a reaction to it.
This dynamic of the music being made in the now and the pre-written words stapled to it is what makes it real. As real as reality, being a mixture of those things both pre-constructed and abstract.
Lauren: I went into that track with a few pre-written lines, 4 of which, I’d written on the night during the recording session. The rest of the lyrics in terms of word, phrasing and delivery are down to my love of setting up conditions for that kind of improv to happen in my life.
What are you hoping people will take away from hearing Top Ten Zen Meditations?
David: I think there are three different configurations of Locean playing on this record. I really hope people get a greater sense of the different kinds of music and atmosphere Locean create and that the bands is not adverse to taking risks and huge stylistic shifts, it’s what keeps the music interesting.
Jefferson: Upon listening to this album in its entirety – I would like people to take-away the desire to seize the means of production, round up the world’s 13 richest humans, drown them in a sea of their own wealth, lay the grounds for a socialist utopia, fuck that up as well, and then once again find solace in the noises that will be unearthed in Locean’s next carefully arranged collection of improvised music.
Daniel: I’m hoping people who hear Top Ten Zen Meditions will take away a feeling of being bloated and full. Like waking up to a takeaway you couldn’t finish in your bed. Reminding you it’s still there hours later when you smear vegetable bhuna all over your bed clothes in the darkness. That idea of being fulfilled yet deeply un-fulfilled.
Ben: They can hear it is loud enough
Lauren: Once the album is in the hands of the audience, the meaning becomes whatever it means to them. It is just not our thing to obsess over anymore. It belongs to them.
COVID dropped a serious hammer on most musicians’ output and productivity in 2020. How badly did it impact on any plans Locean might have had at the start of the year? How are you getting through what has been by all accounts, a very tough time.
Jefferson: Lockdown gave me time to sit and edit some jams we were still unsure what to do with… they got picked up by Artificial head again and before we knew it we were planning a release. Obviously, there have been major downsides since. Locean is a band that was born to be live. Albums mostly come from recording ourselves as we ‘practice’ for a live show. Without knowing when gig’s might be a thing again, it’s hard to find inspiration (or even the place/opportunity) to get together. I think this is common with a lot of bands lately; it’s hard to find enthusiasm when one of the best parts about being a musician is taken away. This, I feel, is even worse if you don’t really have the option to say ‘fuck it we’ll just write some new songs’?! In terms of plans, well, I think touring is out of the window for a looong time now!?… That was our major plan for 2020… So, well, that sucks don’t it.
Daniel: I think Locean had some stuff planned for the start of the year. I think we were planning on going round Europe and having a good time doing it. I think Covid and let’s not forget Brexit might make things harder to get back on the wagon. We’ll get out playing again one day, even if we have to wear hazmat suits covered in hand sanitiser.
Lauren: How could I complain? I feel so much understanding at the moment towards anyone living and working during this pandemic. Jay is right- the lockdown enforced a reflection on those past recordings which led to the creation of T10ZM. We are so excited about this album!
You feel to me like a band who put a lot of stock in the art of music, as much as you do the sound of music. What can you tell me about the artwork for T10ZM? How important is artwork, style and design in the world of Locean?
Jefferson: Danny Watson, our drummer/resident artiste is the guy to talk to about the TTZM cover. He’s being doing artwork like this for years… I think?! Other than it being fantastic I don’t know too much about his style to be honest… but it IS fantastic. In general, I think it would be impossible for us to not place some importance on artwork and visuals as we’re surrounded by so many original artists, photographers, filmmakers… everything. Combine this with being a band who’s members change regularly, and you find there’s always at least one of us who can add a solid visual element to whatever we’ve got going on. The previous cover, for Chav Anglais, for example was a combination of our bass player Ash Reid’s Photography and Danny (Watson)’s sketching, and a few years back our old drummer Luca Corda made some amazing CD covers for a DIY release, as well as some beautiful videos (Look up ‘When I Was Saved’ on youtube for an example)
Daniel: My names Daniel Watson I put together the artwork and also played drums on the release. The artwork was made after the recording as most artwork for albums is. Under the backdrop of financial limitations we had the challenge of making four stickers that could be interchanged on assembly. So the image is to be in four pieces that can be interchanged. After playing around for a while with things that just made us look esoteric and hard for anyone to understand. The artwork suddenly took form after eating mushrooms while listening to the release. Some gnome thing chasing the ethereal vision in steam was what came out. I guess like most album artwork it’s functional to something that might represent the music and less about defining it as one holistic piece. I guess it’s very important to me that things look in a certain way. What that is and how to define it is something I could struggle explaining. For Locean to recognise that aesthetics are my obsession and ask me to make the artwork is something I feel honoured to have been asked to do.
Ben: The music is visual
Lauren: There’s no short answer to this, I’m going to say YES with a big smile and a mind full of conviction.
You come from a city that’s very rich and varied in terms of its musical heritage. What can you tell me about the state of the Manchester music scene now? Aside from yourselves, what other musicians or artists would you recommend people check out?
Jefferson: Continuing the previous answer, in a way, I’d say the best thing about making music in Manchester for the last decade is the abundance of incredible artists we’re surrounded by. Manchester is so much more than the music it is idolised for – the underground scene has been rife with incredibly progressive acts from all genres and all walks of life for years; working together, living together, helping each other, and so on. Similarly, to the aforementioned album art – our last few videos have all been put together by our friends at IMPATV: a duo specialising in visuals, based out of Islington mill. The moment we were told we needed to make a video, we knew exactly who to ask, we knew they’d get us, and we knew they’d know what to do. This is what I love about the Manchester DIY scene. I’m not going to do a list of names because, well, nothing is new as of late, so you’ll have heard them all. Also, the internet exists now. I guess, just to be safe though, if you haven’t heard Gnod, listen to Gnod. Peaceable.
Daniel: It’s hard to say Manchester has always had a corporate face. Whether it’s no proper representation in parliament or people riding Ian Curtis coffin like a surfboard to the bank. There’s one thing for sure and that’s how we come across and what we are very different things. There’s always been an undercurrent of solid musicians and creatives coming from here. Little light shines so far away from London. We wouldn’t want it to either, with marketability begets more homognised shite. The world we live is a different’un here. Manchester music scene exists more like turning over a brick in a dis-used carpark to find teams of woodlice, earwigs, centipedes and worms all chilling together. Currently I’d say this ugly bug ball moniker lies with band like Prangers, 6a6y6, Beu Mek, Gurnal Gadafi, Grief School, Steve Spandex, Paul Nateraj to name a few.
Ben: Here are some which are good, Nummo Twin, Under, Vacuus Otiosus.
Lauren: I think artists of all mediums come here to prove something to themselves, which we already know exists inside us. It’s hard to define but I have a strong individual sense of self. I don’t need the heritage identity attached to me – it is bit too lads & lager for me anyway, so it doesn’t speak to me. Most of what I’ve seen or heard in the last 10 years, does not do anything to me spiritually, it doesn’t last either, there’s no resilience, you can tell there is a lot of people who like the idea of being an artist but lack the bravery or originality to do it gracefully. Instead, they climb up people’s coat tails who are affiliated with that heritage. They might try to dress like them, or ghost-write for them or ghost perform as them just to appear as part of that heritage. I believe Locean are one of the only bands based here now that are making authentic Manchester music that you can’t penetrate with these tired notions of our heritage.