Album Review: Blood Culture’s LUNO

by Guest Blogger Samuel Von Allen

No one knows who Blood Cultures is – and they may not want to be known whatsoever. We know they’re based in New Jersey; we know they are Pakistani-American; we know they’re capable of writing some deliciously catchy tunes. But the sureties end there.

On the first read, the lyrics of LUNO can come off as relatable examinations of relationships and unions that are falling apart – two people drifting away from one another by intention or just circumstance. That said, a recent interview in FLAUNT suggests that the relationships described are between halves or parts of a single self. The dialogues within the songs are those of someone attempting to grow and change into something or someone they consider to be ideal.

“Keeps Bringing Me Back” serves a perfect introduction to the universe of the album, as all good openers do. With bouncy bass underneath a meandering, chirpy arpeggiator, the song details the story of two voices who recognize that they’ve passed a point of no return in their relationship. The song’s crescendo drops in with bombastic percussion and sharp little synth tabs, reminiscent of driving on an empty freeway late at night. 

The lush production of “Deep Sea Diver” makes it an excellent track to follow the album’s beginning. It ebbs and flows in energy, going from the respite of lo-fi guitars and whispered singing to the energetic tidal wave of breakbeats and pitch-shifted vocals. This one was particularly appealing for its lyrics; if LUNO had been released during the halcyon of AOL Instant Messenger, I would most certainly have used “Oh captain. Of S.S nothing/Tell me where we are/Are we rowing?” in a moody away message.

Instant classic “Set It On Fire” offers a perfect singalong melody amidst words that are an iconic addition to the “Happy Song with Sad Lyrics” hall of fame. Like the opening track, it’s a meditation on the end of a connection, and the sometimes-necessity of burning everything to the ground before being able to move on. I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t in a commercial for a Honda Fit or in a J. Crew store rotation within the next year.

Follow-up “Graveyard Vibes” is a spooky, scary surf rock tale of some unknown horror returning to life. The lurching vocals over driving rock-n-roll perfectly evokes the…spirits…of a ghoul flick from the 60s.

“Andromeda” shifts things back into daylight, acting almost as the sunnier cousin of the preceding track. It also shifts the emotional tone of the album, its hushed-and-hopeful vocals contrasting with the resigned finality of “Set It On Fire”. Lines like “Do you feel thе world? It’s turning around us as we dance” gives us a shimmering expectancy that one day we can find ourselves adrift in nothing, but the bliss of another’s company. A nice little breather of a track best accompanied by a hammock in the sun and a cold drink.

The next track brings us back into the realm of the night, with a droning whine of a synthesizer soon punctuated by heavy, sinister syncopated bass. Punchy four-on-the-floor drops into the mix, and the song is off and running, instantly conjuring memories of sweaty clubs and flashing lights. I’m loath to ruin the surprise, but the song delivers a genuinely electrifying moment just before its second minute; Blood Cultures know what they’re doing when it comes to building tension before delivering nothing but what could only be described as the good sh-t. Look for this one as a highlight of Blood Culture’s sets in their concerts to come.

“Cabin Fever Freestyle” is egress from the ominous electropop of “When the Night Calls…”. Listeners of a particular generation (e.g., aging hipsters like me) might find this song a comforting callback to the stuck-in-your-head whistling of “Young Folks.” Stereo-panning vocals in the chorus set you adrift in a swirling ocean of warm guitars and handclap-happy percussion. As played out as the idea of “nostalgia” might be, this is one track that manages to prompt that vague feeling of remembering the undefined “good ol’ days”…

…and that feeling is instantly inverted with the bombastic finale that is “Beneath the Moon & Me”, an absolute banger of a closing track that enters loudly and doesn’t let up, something like grinding at a dance party during an air raid siren in the last hours of the night. After the previous blast of distorted bass subsides, the vocals rise like the sun to greet the end of the darkness. As the song decays and falls away, you’re left with the feeling of a calm end to a storm.

End to end, LUNO is a buffet of ideas, sounds, and states of mind. If you’re someone who prizes consistency of tone in an album, you may find yourself better off sorting these songs into playlists to fit a particular mood – sunny, sinister, optimistic, and so on. The constant shifting of the tone may very well be a deliberate mirroring of the album’s examination of the process of personal growth; vision, then revision; thesis, then antithesis; letting something die so something new can be born. But regardless of how often it shifts its mood, it’s an album that rewards you for multiple listens, as there are always neat little discoveries to be made in exploring its lively, detailed production. 

Key Tracks: “Set it on Fire”, “When the Night Calls…”, “Cabin Fever Freestyle.” To purchase their album or merch, click here.

Samuel lives in Chicago. He likes riding bicycles, reading French, taking photos, and mixing fashioneds. Sam has been described as “decent on defense” by his fourth-grade soccer coach.

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