“If Leonard Cohen brings a smile to your face and you are partial to a bit of low-fi then Tenebrous Liar is the band for you.”
“Imagine Lift To Experience stuck in the eternal damnation their songs tried to escape from, but with a result more ashcan reality than spiritually vivid.”
DROWNED IN SOUND
\"Tenebrous Liar purvey a dark, doomed and deliciously damaged style of cosmic/ambient rock melancholy, which is nevertheless hugely uplifting\"
“Ultimately, this debut occupies a murky place in a collective musical psyche that may make your stereo frown. It1s not pretty, it1s largely devoid of hope and direction, yet crucially - it still has the power to uplift. It1s really good.”
Tenebrous Liar’s Last Stand
There’s a moment, late in the apocalyptic moments of the final, eponymous track of Tenebrous Liar’s new album, where the sounds of feedback, distortion, destruction and collapse can’t help but conjure the image of a studio strewn with wrecked, damaged, spent instruments, the aftermath of such honest, blood-flecked, thrilling catharsis. One can only imagine how band leader Steve Gullick’s lens would capture such a scene. As evidenced by his recent, acclaimed photographic exhibition – also called Tenebrous, and which has, like Steve’s group, also toured the globe – both Steve’s photography and music captures moments of drama, of struggle. On Tenebrous Liar’s Last Stand, that struggle ends in triumph, electrifyingly won.
Steve Gullick’s name has long been familiar to many disciples of dark and wonderful rock noise. Followers of the music press had thrilled for years to his live photographs, capturing the ecstatic chaos of performance, or his intense portraits, casting both rock legends and rock hopefuls in heroic and iconic light. Working for Melody Maker in the early to mid 90’s Gullick was a crucial factor in the early coverage of America’s burgeoning underground scene.
A decade later, in 2001 Gullick & friends set about creating Careless Talk Costs Lives, a high-quality independent magazine conceived to run for twelve issues, a project that cast Gullick’s lens towards a new generation of outstanding artists, a mission continued through the beautiful Loose Lips Sink Ships magazine.
Gullick had been recording songs intermittently since the late 90s, following the purchase of the kind of four-track tape recorder found in every musician’s bedroom. By 2004, the loft of his East London home, where most of the work on his magazines occurred, swiftly became cluttered with guitars, amplifiers, microphones, pedals, recording devices and boxes of blank reel-to-reel tape.
His first recordings, as .bender, were made all over the house; the bathroom offered particularly good acoustics, and enabled Gullick’s three young sons to add vocals if they so desired. Swiftly, however, the project evolved; Gullick found regular collaborators in old friends James Johnston (leader of Gallon Drunk and suave Bad Seed) and painter Geraldine Swayne, they collectively became ...bender and produced a slew of darkly magical, turbulent recordings. Tenebrous, meanwhile, began as an outlet for non-…bender ideas, before morphing into Tenebrous Liar. Both …bender and Tenebrous Liar have recorded prolifically and performed live regularly, ...bender notably supporting Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Mercury Rev, Tenebrous Liar playing South By Southwest and touring last Summer with Josh T Pearson and Soulsavers, who Steve joined on guitar alongside old friend Mark Lanegan.
This pre-history brings us, neatly or gnarly, to Tenebrous Liar’s Last Stand. Those early solo bathroom recordings have evolved, without losing any of their intimacy, honesty or smouldering, macabre power. Tenebrous Liar are a full band, and what they play is rock music, albeit a dark and twisted form, haunted by the blues, burnished by emotion, with a vulnerability glowering where lesser groups have only empty swagger.
The album was recorded in a single thirteen hour session, under the aegis of friend and collaborator Richard Warren, perhaps best known for his work with Echoboy, Spiritualized and Soulsavers. Overdubs were added later, at Steve’s and Rich’s houses, as was the album’s brooding, menacing opening track, ‘Blood Moon’, which Gullick claims was written on a Tuesday, recorded on a Wednesday, and mixed that Thursday. Certainly, nothing about the song feels rushed, Gullick’s weary croon wreathed in the crackle and buzz of an old 78, couched in the uneasy reverb of bruised guitar and gospel organ.
From hereon in, things get darker, heavier, gloriously intense. ‘Pretender’ rocks bluntly, with the stately lurch of Crazy Horse, and a nagging chorus hook, its sleazy vamp the equal of ‘One Last Time’s aching melancholy. For the pounding ‘Sour’ the group stir up a motorik groove, while ‘Alight’ imagines deliriously cacophonic gloom-pop as Dinosaur Jr might’ve scored it. It’s the closing tracks that provoke the deepest shivers, however: ‘Tenebrous Liar’, a soulful sonic storm that rolls in, quaking and squalling like a lost chapter to The Lift To Experience’s The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads; and ‘Last Stand’, a splintering, cathartic blast with many false endings, stirring up a similar sense of profound disquiet as Nirvana’s In Utero. It\'s on such a droning, draining note that Tenebrous Liar leave us, sated and moved and rocked, but profoundly. There\'s no doubt that, since that moment, new dark inspiration has flowered within the Tenebrous Liar rehearsal rooms, but Last Stand provides plenty food for the thought, until the group next arise.