After the cosmic sadness of Our Star, the Sun and the dusted, lo-fi folk ballads of No Becoming, I didn’t believe LA’s Lee Noble is able to surprise me much. So when I got Persona, the newest c40 from Bridgetown Records (including a sticker advertising Horrorism, Lee’s upcoming debut vinyl on Bathetic), I was expecting either lo-fi introvertisms or beautiful synth drones.
How surprised I was when the very first track on side A, “Beached”, started with hazy, tribal drumming and a synth melody snaking its way through the loops, like something straight out of Monopoly Child Star Searcher’s Bamboo for Two! This mysterious tropical illusion brings to mind the numerous side-projects of members of the Skaters, as well as the work of Lieven Martens (aka Dolphins Into the Future). Noble creates a half-forgotten memory of a beach and lying in palm shades on a sunny day without resorting to the tiring murk of many lo-fi psych acts or the clichés of chillwave. The coconut jam seamlessly blends into “Personal Day”, a light-filled ambient journey, bright and clear, with serene synth cascades and gentle acoustic guitar bringing the peace of mind and a calm contemplation, which is somewhat untypical for Noble’s work, who created his style around slightly darker music. Side A is closed by “Carve an Image”, a synth-driven ballad, reflecting the melancholic “hit” from Lee’s previous cassette, “Doesn’t Matter What’s Right”, this time in a purely electronic form.
Side B’s “Skin and Hair” again employs guitar, Lee’s voice and distant synth noises, which create at the same time an intimate, bedroom atmosphere and a vast, ambient-ish atmosphere filled with rumbles and bodiless choirs, like a more intimate, less bombast version of Amnesiac era Radiohead, down to the vocals which sometimes sound a lot like Thom Yorke’s. “Eyes Meet the Night” lies somewhere between the wasteland drone of Noble’s own Our Star, the Sun and the vintage dust of Brother Raven which later turns into a series of shimmering needle-like sounds reverbing all over the tape in a truly kosmisch manner. The closing “Straight Black” stomps on the more traditional Lee Noble ground, marrying massive, dark drones known from his early cassettes with acoustic guitar and narcotic, Brightblack Morning Light-style vocals existing in a state between sleep and waking life. The track closes the cassette in a melancholic tone, creating a full circle of moods.
Lee Noble isn’t afraid to experiment with style and moods, constantly adding new elements to his oeuvre while retaining the distinctly personal style – whether it’s a warm drone or an uplifting guitar ballad, you just know it’s him. And that’s what makes Lee Noble exceptional.