Bristol group LICE announce their debut album WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear with new single “R.D.C”, publishing the album’s pamphlet (lyrics/story) and revealing the hand-built noise instrument (Intonarumori) used across it. They also announce the creation of their own label Settled Law Records to release new experimental artists.
A ‘satire about satire’, WASTELAND is a concept album written as a piece of experimental short fiction: a wild Burroughsian cat-and-mouse adventure, melding science-fiction and magical realism to call for a revolution in satirical music. Arguing that by unsettling the conventional forms of the song lyric, politicised music can step beyond ‘good versus evil’ narratives to promote more nuanced popular discourse around the implicit forms of bias and iniquity that ail us, everything in WASTELAND is always changing. Set in a savage, liminal space populated by shape-shifters, time-travellers, talking genitalia and ectoplasmic spectres, the characters’ moral transformations are paired with typographical transformations: the prose text warping into cut-ups, soliloquies and even plays. Created over two years, the album draws from LICE’s rise in ‘the punk world’ (sharing stages with IDLES, Shame, The Fall, Fat White Family, Girl Band etc.) and eventual disillusionment with the limits of its prevailing ideas.
Following singles “Conveyor” and ‘Arbiter’, “R.D.C” returns us to The Wasteland: a liminal space populated by structures and half-conscious people from the real world. This episode focuses on a committee attempting to engineer humanity’s self-destruction, intervened in by WASTELAND’s supernatural antagonist Dr Coehn. His proposal is based on Louis Althusser’s Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, which suggests any social formation is sustained by reinforced submission to dominant ideologies, spread through a network of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs): these include the educational ISA, family ISA and cultural ISA. Coehn’s speech conflates this with Pavlovian conditioning, training humanity to react to an ‘attack word’. The disruptive influence of Dr Coehn and The Conveyor is revealed as causing the strange physical transformations in The Wasteland (seen in the horse and ectoplasmic ball in ‘Arbiter’), including disturbances in spacetime: these are manifested in audible jumbled numerical sequences.