Pulling Teeth, LCY’s second solo EP for their own SZNS7N imprint, is pitched as a concept record. The EP, we’re told, follows its central character Ériu—part dog, part human, part robot—on a journey through a dystopian, post-human world. As is often the case with these things, the extent to which all of this comes across during the EP’s six tracks depends on how invested the listener is in the concept. In this particular instance, it matters little either way: with or without a post-human dystopia, these are rich compositions, reverent in their admiration for UK club music and successful in their efforts to push it forward.
Last February, L U C Y changed their artist name to LCY and, with an unfortunate sense of timing, dropped the face mask that had previously been a feature of press shots and live appearances. The Bristol native has always infused their music with that city’s deep-rooted soundsystem culture; now based in London—and a member of the fiercely dancefloor-oriented 6 Figure Gang collective, alongside FAUZIA, Dobby, Sherelle, Jossy Mitsu, and Yazzus—LCY updates that same soundsystem sensibility with a more distinctly industrial edge. These elements are most evident in the EP’s tumultuous and exciting mid stages: In the alien breakbeat of “shhh,” or the clatter of claps and pulsing grime kicks on “slutty siri.”
The EP’s structure follows a loose narrative. Opener “teeth,” with its build of strings, acid bass, and probing drums, offers a sort of birth sequence. This is followed by a short series of dramatic crescendos over subsequent tracks before the EP ultimately withers into a pulpy, organic decay at its close. Sometimes the pull of the conceptual is too much. “bite off the hand that feeds you” fizzes with nervous energy but ultimately drowns in its own deadening loop of cyborg synths. As a transitional moment between the groovy breaks of “shhh” and the grandeur of “decay”—which opens with a wash of strings before, yes, decaying into a well of disembodied voices and guttural bass rumbles—it has its place, but it’s a little overindulgent. LCY has explored the characters and conjured environs of Pulling Teeth in a longer audio treatment for Peckham-based Balamii radio, as well as a series of grotesque clay model figurines, but what binds the record together most is the friction it generates between human and android sounds.
LCY’s voice appears, disembodied, throughout—mostly as wheezy, rhythmic samples, but occasionally in the form of shapeless words and half-strung sentences. It’s just about possible to make out the odd snatch of lyrics here or there, but the effect is boldest in the way it toys with the uncanny valley. It’s reminiscent of the 2010s indie video games LIMBO and INSIDE, which thrilled players by simultaneously conjuring horror and pricking their imaginations, the action unfolding onscreen at once fascinating and unsettling, familiar yet unwelcoming. On the standout dub-techno roller “garden of e10,” industrial crackle and clanks bounce between breathy vocal clips; the track’s title is a pun on the London postcode that encapsulates both the dense urban sprawl of Upper Clapton and the wet greenery of Hackney Marshes, whose not exactly Edenic waters are themselves pumped with sewage and human waste.
The EP’s title speaks to its visceral, sinewy nature: staked on taut exchanges of attack and release, and full of hardened percussion and fleshy basslines. Outside of the dentist’s chair, “pulling teeth” refers to a task that’s difficult, tedious, and tiresome. LCY makes it look easy.
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