Blue Mountains resident Lewis Goldmark has just unveiled his debut album ‘Cut and Flash’ via Broken Stone Records/Remote Control Records, and it is a ray of golden sunshine leavened with a sense of nostalgia and a bittersweet, sepia-tinged air.
Lewis Goldmark is in fact Liam Judson from Belles Will Ring (and Magnetic Heads) and producer of many eminent bands, some of whom have graced our pages in the past including Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Imperial Broads, Cloud Control and The Lovetones.
There is a dappled lightness to the entire album: not one born from insubstantiality but one born from a delicate touch and subtlety that filters the harsh light of reality with nuanced melodies and a studied elegance. Judson says of the album:
The goal was to paint pictures using words and tone colours – lots of dark, warm moods created through synth and strings along with glowing, or sparkling sounds to offset that texture like distant city lights.
Indeed, the result is a finely crafted canvas framed with a filigree of gold.
Judson explains, the album is loosely divided into two parts, with Side A being the feeling of the weekend – it’s fast, snappy, on its toes with moments of warmth and atmosphere – whereas Side B is the “haunted” side – where the tunes stretch out and luxuriate a little more, and thematically we are taken through slightly more unsettling terrain. It all comes to a closure on ‘Another Seesaw’ (his answer to the inspirational closing tracks ‘Oh! Sweet Nuthin’’ on Velvet Underground’s Loaded and ‘Saturday Night’ on Suede’s Coming Up), where there are distant glimmers of hope again.
The brief instrumental opener, ‘Friday Night’, sets the sonic scene with its crystalline guitar etching lines across the ether with a choral layers humming and aahing underneath like some swinging sixties prelude, before we are launched into the crisp and bouncy pace of ‘On The Second Floor’. Splattering guitars and flute-like splashes lead us into to a very velvet flared trousered world of beehive hair dos, polar-necked skivvies and open topped sports car speeding along some cliff hugging road in the South of France.
‘Psycho City’ is one of the freshest, breeziest tracks you will hear this year: cantering along with a sprightly lilt and a sixties crushed velvet attire. As light as air and with an almost carnival joviality, the song is actually about darker things (as its title suggests).
Judson moved to the peaceful and ethereal Blue Mountains from the ever growing crush and the chaos of Sydney and dwelt on the anxieties of life in the city:
I can’t explain it, but every time I got on a train there were strange folk doing really destructive things, and being incredibly aggressive. I don’t scare easily. I was scared often. It was like ‘summer of the psychos’ and I wrote the song amidst all that.
The ebullient organ sounds, the celestial harmonies, the slamming rhythms and Mike Sammes Singers buoyancy all combine to create something with an effervescent sunshine glow, but deep within its heart there lurks a dark soul.
There is an immediate counterpoint between the themes and the lyrics of the track and the delivery: shining, glowing melodies and harmonies that canter like a high stepping pony while describing the darker side of human nature.
‘Psycho City’ is the sound of the Beach Boys and the Mamma and the Papas with lyrics by The Jesus and Mary Chain collaborating with Nick Cave and the scribbled notes of a therapy session. A delightful dichotomy that results in something very unique and fresh. It may well be inferred that Sydney is psycho city but at the very least it can inspire this sort of refreshing creativity.
‘Black Lake’ is straight from some West Coast LA playbook: light, agile vocals skipping over Stone Roses jangling guitars with a Byrdsian thrum: harmonies and walls of sound and a blithe innocent romanticism to the lyrics – in a moment she’ll arrive, the girl that saved my life and the reason I’m alive.
‘Wild Night’ is a jangling delight with a shimmer and shine that is euphoric and celestial. Judson’s voice is a delight – deep and sonorous in parts, wild and ecstatic in other parts. There is a muscular spine that opens the track and maintains a steady presence throughout the epic layers – resulting in something that sparkles with melody and feeling like bands such as The Smiths, Felt, The Las and the C86/Madchester era bands. Judson explains the origins of the track:
The beginnings of ‘Wild Night’ came about one summer Friday late afternoon, when just mincing about my then apartment in Ashfield, I picked up my baritone electric guitar and started doodling.
Straight away my fingers went to the melodic figure that would be the eventual bedrock of ‘Wild Night’. Typically, I don’t know straight away if I like or dislike tunes or riffs I come up with, so I kind of kept it in the back of my mind as a “maybe one day” thing. Fast forward a year or so, a good friend introduced me to a fairly obscure 1988 solo album by Peter Koppes, guitarist from The Church called ‘Manchild & Myth’. The sound and songs immediately captivated me, and the icy, late night wooziness of that record inspired me to turn this baritone riff into something.
This is exultant and euphoric pop music with a visceral edge.
‘Friday Night Again’ – heralding part two of this magnum opus – is another dreamy reverie featuring ethereal harmonies that range like stars in the firmament: shimmering and transfixing. ‘Midnight 2’ features splashing synths under Judson’s easy vocals and an epic, cinematic chorus. This is widescreen sonic cinema that induces a euphoric response.
‘In Your Room’ is themed very much around a nostalgic look at growing up (something I really look forward to doing at some stage), the track has a sepia inflected sonic tone of reflection and yearning as Judson’s soft velvet tones surf along a bed of rolling, jangling instrumentation. The long instrumental outro spins the listener away into another world: transportative and filled with reverie. Judson says of the inspirations behind the track:
Aptly, the main chord progression dates back to my late-teenage years, from an old abandoned song. Mysteriously the chords came back to me early in the creative process of the album, with the new melody and lyrics almost instantaneously. Soon after, the arrangement concept was cemented after I caught a Roy Ayers song on the radio that provided some sonic inspiration.
Indeed there is an easy laid back sweep to the track that seems to reflect the light of the late afternoon sun – a palimpsest for a recollection of a past life, perhaps, in the Autumnal shades of life. Needlessly to say, Lewis Goldmark perfectly reflects emotions and longing in the releases thus far: an utter respect for indie pop tropes burnished with melancholy and a poetic discourse.
A muscular, gritty bass threads its way through the indie groove pop rumble of ‘2am/Dark Matter’. Arching strings etch the horizon above the insistent pop drive, along with Judson’s soulful vocals, displaying a stunning range. It’s pacey, funky and a breath of the freshest air.
The album leaves us with the graceful elegance of ‘Another Seesaw’: a paean to the vicissitudes of life with a sixties bubblegum chorus that fuses a Beach Boys sweetness with a steely spine and an indelible melody.
‘Cut and Flash’ is quite a triumph: it sounds like nothing else around at the moment yet has an easy familiarity and pop sensibility that nods at the swinging sixties of Carnaby Street, arches a knowing and perfectly manicured eyebrow at Britpop and forges its own shimmering path. You can get it though all the usual download and streaming sites and through the link below.