The 'Imagination' EP by Lemon BoyReview
When Lemon Boy (aka Luke Bates) tipped me off about his new EP with the title of ‘Imagination', he suggested that it might be "..a little different to the stuff released before.." which certainly doesn't breach any consumer protection legislation in terms of accuracy of product description. It's almost like listening to a different artist.
Over the series of reviews of his previous release, while each has its own precise character & qualities, I am certain I've sewn together an overall artist profile of someone bringing in various chilled or even blessed out, ethereal soundscapes, often inspired with Eastern cultural elements, using expressions such as "…exquisite & carefully selected delicate sounds.." and praising his use of silences between the sounds.
If you look at the titles of the four tracks on the new release, the title one doesn't give too much away, nor perhaps "Monday" but while "Jazz Bar" suggests something more of a move away from the earlier template, it's impossible to fit a track called "Get Funky" into it at all, unless the irony button is being depressed hard. Which it's not.
In fact Luke's commitment to honesty extends from his message to me to naming his songs: he's clearly not one to play games or mess with his audience. "Get Funky" is funky & guess what sort of environment "Jazz Bar" evokes. You're correct.
And he's good at playing in those styles (and all the playing on the EP is Luke alone), a versatility & range hitherto concealed from us as he's explored his no less interesting interests in mindful & world musics: so no complaints from me, though I think if he has those cards up his sleeve, now is a good time to play them to demonstrate his range. I think the one over-arching theme introduced into ‘Imagination' is that apart from the inner narratives & calmnesses which can both be therapeutic & teach us about the human condition, a sense of fun can complement this & play its own part.
All four songs possess & offer this quality (though "Monday" swings back more towards the wistful), with many possibilities for alternative strategies in terms of tempo, volume, playing style, lyrics & vocal approach (it's interesting to hear Luke sing with, relative to his earlier work, greater gusto: I'm not sure if confidence played a part here, judging by the evidence on the record). Generally, while earlier songs were very much more metaphysical & even abstract in style, here we connect with the physicality of daily existence & hence a more accessible & down to earth way of presenting the ideas is appropriate.
So where does the mood change originate: well according to its composer, the EP is in fact something of a conceptual collection, seeking to tell an overall narrative, being "..about meeting that someone special for the first time, imagining a future together and having a great first date leading to a sort of numbed happiness state..": which pretty much explains the motivation & consequent shifts in dynamics but also why he would not want to leave in the very considerable degrees of ambiguity we had become used to in his work. This is something not to be hidden away.
That Luke's been out playing live (for example at the Sunflower Lounge) for the first time in a long while may be connected to this flowering of bright, new blooms in his repertoire. At this point, I nearly started writing a convoluted metaphor based around both the ideas of citrus fruit being brought out of even English glasshouses at this time of the year & factoring in Luke's imminent relocation to that grand land for such plants, Spain, but it collapsed under the weight of over-ambition: we just need to rejoice for his vision & development & wish him well for both his physical move & his change of musical direction, whether it be of short or other duration. What with these to look forward to & the story in his songs on the EP (I hope they are autobiographical), these seem happy days for Lemon Boy.