Electro-Scots L-Space return with their third album, Feed the Engines!, a Celtic-tinged dystopia in a technicolour which paints over a cold robotic society.
Feed the Engines! explores the late stages of capitalism and (as the PR wryly states) being tired all the time. What they’re getting at is the increasingly overworked state of the poor sods being ground down in the western capitalist machine. Or something like that.
The album is flush with ambient electronica, space-pop and even hints of EDM, all set against a kind of Scottish anime backdrop.
Opener Karoshi (the Japanese word for death by overwork) is a neon-lit whizz through the dystopia this record inhabits. “Welcome to the Karoshi hotline,” is a welcome to the souls who are feeding the machine, and know it, but just don’t have the energy left to rebel.
Much of Feed the Engines! feels like an arcade game with its bleeps, distorted synths and even a majestic theremin solo on The Machine Will Handle It. Indeed, Pac-Man is a suitable analogy as the wee yella fella is constantly trying to chase down his rewards, chased by the nasties in a never-ending, inescapable maze.
The past is not entirely forgotten as the late Jimmy Reid, trade union hero, is sampled on Unit of Production: “A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings.” His powerful parlance is complemented well by Lily Higham’s haunting vocals delivering the killer warning: “Kill our culture quietly, with a shot to the back of the head.”
And it’s the vocals which deliver the greatest punch throughout. Higham’s breathy Scottish dialect complements the otherworldy musical landscapes created by Gordon Johnstone and Dickson Telfer.
On Extinctathon Champions 2020, with a vocal recorded using only her laptop microphone, the words barely surface against a tide of M83-like synth waves.
At times, however, things don’t quite land. It’s hard to disagree with the message but at times, the lyrics feel like they’ve come straight from a right-on student’s jotter.
Diamonds Are For Breakfast opens about as subtly as an oil-covered turtle to the face: “I saw my toothbrush wash up on a beach / to get to work I need fossils.” The song is about the Greta effect, with a generation rising and trying to fight against a system they just aren’t equipped to take on.
When the lyrics don’t quite stand up however, the music carries a strong enough foundation to keep things together. The record is a testament to the power of DIY tools like GarageBand, laptop mics and using limited tech to develop a tangible atmosphere.
Penultimate track, Fill Your Head With Static, is like an electro Stairway to Heaven. Where the Zep paid homage to a Tolkien landscape, L-Space look to a future Cyberpunk Scotland: “She’s not here to raise a family / She is here to raze it all to the ground / She’s not here to raise a family / She is here to raise the voice of the crowd”
Okay, so maybe the lyrical prose and delivery isn’t quite Robert Plant but the concept of Feed the Engines! is both powerful and relatable. It forewarns an optional destiny of which we are in the mid-stages right now. Maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t kill us to start listening to younger voices if we really desire being saved. And that’s a big ‘if’.