Kilynn Lunsford - Custodians Of Human Succession LP
Kilynn Lunsford - Custodians Of Human Succession LP (ever/never / USA)
Limited to 500 copies
Genres: art punk, no wave, avant-garde electro pop, post- Taiwan Housing Project, abrasive collages, caustic surrealism,
Moods: Testing your reality, melodies being swallowed by a snake, slaps that feel good, can't fight the seether...or can you?
Philadelphia’s Kilynn Lunsford had been conceiving her first solo album since she was a young teen. Growing up through the MTV era of Missy Elliot, Timbaland and the Swing Mob collective, and drawn towards its “sometimes ridiculous, but overloaded” qualities, she found herself returning to that state of emerging adulthood when the moment for a solo record finally arose.
The image of Britney Spears being recorded in an empty field somewhere in her native West-Philly - “like Alan Lomax recording Betty Boop near the Delaware water gap” - provided a key 'mental mood image’ for what would eventually become ‘Custodians of Human Succession’. As if Blackout was reimagined by Throbbing Gristle, Lunsford’s debut straddles unclear boundaries between electro-pop, post-punk and the avant-garde; it delves into those liminal spaces between pop culture and experimentalism, between city and country, between verse and chorus.
Written over four years, drafted during long car rides from work, hewn out first thing in the morning or last thing at night ‘Custodians'…is Lunsford’s first work since the dissolution of her former project, noise-punk outfit Taiwan Housing Project in 2021. Being now uninhibited by the democratic needs of a band writing and jamming in the practise-room, choosing to ‘go solo’ liberated her song building process. While some arrangements would be hammered out for weeks, sometimes it was a loose, “off-the-cuff” take that could make the final cut: “Wanting to combine irreconcilable elements”, Lunsford explains, “we would set up for hours and then do one take, always allowing for the aleatoric to come through”.
Working to her preferred rhythms, she was free to approach the studio (read: her living room),- like a “laboratory”, liberally incorporating her smorgasbord of often disparate inspirations and ideas into something cohesive, and entirely of her own making. Inspired by her longtime love of collage, and a “solo exquisite corpse approach to photography”, Lunsford and chief collaborator Don Bruno developed a DIY recording style the two jokingly referred to as “Fluid Fidelity”: We would record things very flatly”, explains Lunsford, “ with cheap broken gear and off-time rhythms, sounds with no reverb or sense of space - almost like an auditory hallucination - and combine that with high-end preamps and high-end mics, so that my voice is out front almost to the point of being disembodied from the music.”.
Opening track - the abrasive “Reality Testing” - is a case of this ‘Fluid Fidelity’ in point. The instrumentation of cyclical sheet-glass guitar and minimalist electronic drum is thin and wiry, recalling the deconstructed post-punk of early Fall. Then Lunsford’s sprechgesang vocal steals in from another plane, clarified and prepossessing, producing an ““exorcism-level of vocal presence” inspired by her life-time appreciation of Diamanda Galas.
This constant, artificed state of balanced unsettlement is testament to the harsh juxtapositions that frequent Lunsford’s work. Sometimes hi-fi, sometimes ‘lo’, more often than not ‘Custodians’ is traipsing sideways or zig-zagging off on sharp diagonals. The album itself operates like an aforementioned collage, splintered and warped, each song in imprinting its own shape and colour to fashion a finished whole. Industrial-edged electro-pop a la Chris and Cosey sits shoulder to shoulder with twangling new wave rock ‘n’ roll ironies. That “ridiculous, but overloaded” MTV quality dances (un)comfortably with abrasive and bone-chilling sequences of avant-garde experimentalism.
Embellishing this collage, more ornately still, are Lunsford’s caustic lyrics, packed as they are with a potent blood-stream of unflinching surrealism and discomfiting satire. Impacted by her experiences as Healthcare Union Organiser living through a pandemic, and as a sufferer of an autoimmune disorder in a country with no healthcare coverage, a festering anger boils at the album’s core. ‘Custodians’ sits in this malicious context: the growth of right wing ideologies in the U.S; the emergence of authoritarian neoliberalism and its failure to solve extreme economic inequality. Little wonder how, from all this, comes a record of commensurate disturbance, and brilliant intrigue.