Australian musician David Thrussell is known in dark ambient and electronic circles for Black Lung, Snog, and Soma, although he’s been inactive for quite some time now. In fact, his recent biography is harrowing and bleak, defined by ‘crises of doubt, identity, emotional collapse and mental health’ which saw Thrussell effectively withdraw from public life, even spending ‘nearly a year bed-ridden and virtually comatose’.
Two years of intensive therapy and vast quantities of medication enabled him to resume creative activity, and ‘Lullabies For The Lithium Age’ represents the first released fruits of this period of regeneration.
‘It may not be the album you want. But it is the album you need,’ advises the press release. And it’s probably a fair summary.
I’m going to assume there’s a degree or irony to the cover art, although there’s an unexpectedly mellow electro feel to the album. The first song, ‘The Reaper’ sounds more like a heavily-processed – and perhaps sedated - Vangellis than Blue Oyster Cult, as Thrussell sings ‘don’t fear the reaper, no, no, no’, his vocals roboticised so as to evoke the futures predicted in late 70s / early 80s. On the one had, it sort of sets the tone: on the other, it’s a bit of a wrong-footer, as the album gets progressively darker as it goes.
‘Ball and Chain’ sees Thrussell adopt a more growly, industrial vocal as he wheezes the refrain against a minimal backing of shuffling beat and bulbous bass, and ‘Gog’ goes several steps further into the early 80s industrial, coming on like Foetus on Ketamine, only with post-millennial production values with a near subsonic bass pulsating low and slow, and ‘Spaetzle Machine’ goes full PIG / KMFDM in its technoindustrial stylings. The funeral ‘Saving Seeds’ lands between Depeche Mode and ‘Movement’ era New Order.
It’s bleak, but compelling, and ‘Lullabies For The Lithium Age’ is brimming with skittering synths and airy overlays that drift down in layers over mechanised beats. ‘Tear it All Down’ stands out for its sparseness, and has almost a demo quality that lends it an intimacy and immediacy that heightens its effect.
There’s an understated, almost sedated quality to the slow grooves of ‘Lullabies For The Lithium Age’, although perhaps in contact, this is to be expected. Thrussell’s whispering growl is so low and hushed as to be almost subliminal at times, but then the overall feel of the album is stark and backed-off the way that The Cure’s ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is. It’s by no means an immediate album, nor a fun one, but it is one that requires repeat listening and proper excavation in order to appreciate fully.