The Upshot: A bold new incarnation for Hey Negrita’s Felix Bechtolsheimer, featuring everything from Krautrock to folk to jazzy gothic noir. Extra points for that Arizona landscape on the record sleeve.
BY FRED MILLS
Don’t be fooled: While London’s Curse of Lono comes across like a group of veterans who’ve been recording and performing for years, they’ve actually only been together since 2015, and this is just their debut. The players themselves, however, are indeed seasoned musicians; the group is the brainchild of Felix Bechtolsheimer, who previously performed in the much-loved Hey Negrita, which toured extensively and released four albums prior to Felix deciding it was time to move on and test out some new sounds and textures. Somewhere along the way he encountered the ’83 Hunter S. Thompson mini-memoir The Curse of Lono—a kind of Hawaiian-misadventures variation on the truth-in-loathing angle—and liked the name.
Those sounds and textures showcased across these four songs—the EP is a 12” vinyl offering, that quite nicely spins at 45rpm for additional fidelity and clarity—are, indeed, monumentally moving. Side A features “Five Miles,” a pulsing, cinematic, motorik slice of neo-Krautrock that’s tempered by ecstatic, almost anthemic singing. The jazzy “London Rain” then makes a rapid left-turn via spooky electric piano, atmospheric shards of guitar, and a low, growly vocal; think the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” meets Alabama 3’s “Woke Up This Morning” and you’ve just about got it.
Flip the platter and “He Takes My Place” unexpectedly detours into Nick Drake/Dylan territory via tuneful, harmony vocal-strewn country-folk that practically begs the listener to sing along. And closing number “Saturday Night,” with its nocturnal vibe, suggests that Felix and the band have spent more than a few hours soaking in vintage gospel and blues.
Overall, Curse of Lono is a bold new incarnation for Felix, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch the band grow and evolve. A full-length is due early next year.
Incidentally, the tunes here are apparently also the soundtrack for an Alex Walker-directed short film starring Grant Masters and Marta Hermida, so that “cinematic” tag above isn’t too far off. The group has also filmed a series of live-in-studio performances intended to visually enhance their material, and the intimate videos can be viewed at their Facebook page or YouTube channel. [Below: watch one of the, their live version of “London Rain.”]
DOWNLOAD: “London Rain,” “Five Miles”