Launder - Happening 2LP
Launder - Happening 2LP
After nearly three years and sixty demos, Launder's full-length debut is Happening. In 2019, Orange County-raised, Los Angeles-based musician John Cudlip signed to Ghostly International to build his recording project, developed out of casual sessions with friends Jackson Phillips (Day Wave), Soko, and Zachary Cole Smith (DIIV). Launder's music had seen unexpected attention, with Stereogum placing it "somewhere at the intersection of '90s lo-fi and shoegaze," and Gorilla vs. Bear noting Cudlip's "serious knack for the kind of wistful, soaring choruses that immediately make you feel like you've known these songs forever." With live shows paused in 2020, he immersed fully into writing and arranging an overflow of ideas. Cudlip also embraced sobriety, redirecting his once-destructive addictive tendencies into studio craft - all his thoughts consumed by melody and texture, all his resources lobbed into gear, every buzz, hiss, and hum of this record became his entire world. The resulting set sprawls across a double LP release; it's a considered beast of a debut and he's proud of it, living with it, finally. Through it's thirteen songs, Happening is timeless, grappling with something bigger than just melody, the cathartic and the tender, indebted to indie rock greats while informed by modern and prudent self-reflection. "I feel like I've evolved into a much more self-reliant writer compared to the EP and 7-inch releases but I couldn't have made this record without the band," he says. "The songs came to life in the rehearsal space with them, it was like a light switch went on." To record the album, Cudlip and collaborators - including Chase Meier (bass), Bryan DeLeon (drums), Nathan Hawelu (lead guitar) - joined co-producer, engineer, and mixer Sonny DiPerri (My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, DIIV) at New Monkey Studio, the vintage analog/modern digital recording studio in Van Nuys, California once owned by Elliott Smith. Cudlip mapped out his dream setup; alternate-tuning a fleet of Fenders to facilitate his left-handed playing, experimenting with different amps (a late '70s Marshall JMP carried much of the sound), and getting the vocals just right on Smith's old Neumann U48 microphone and Fairchild compressor. With each nuanced adjustment and improved take, they'd joke, "it's happening." The sort of phrase you say to keep the vibe light - but there was some gravity behind it - as the group was forced to wait to be safely in the same space again. It was apparent to them that something magnetic was shaping this record. Opening cut "Unwound" punches with soaring hooks; Cudlip and Zachary Cole Smith referred to the early demo as "arena rock," and one could picture it's jagged riffs filling that sort of space. It's a compelling preface - in the school of mission statement album openers like Nirvana's "Serve The Servants," The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Darklands," and The Stone Roses "I Wanna Be Adored" - encapsulating the canonical quiet/loud songwriting of his youth. Behind the bright guitar lines is a darker thread; a character, or maybe a self, is interrogated; "you say you're clean now," he sings with disdain. Next is the more urgent and impulsive "Intake," built on chugging drums and wiry guitar interplay, all the backdrop to some kind of hazardous love. "I wanted a song on the record with cleaner guitars, and this is pretty much the only one." The feedback swells back in for "Blue Collar," a visceral ode to being alone written in his hometown of Dana Point on an old guitar in an unusual tuning. "Sometimes I'll just loop a part of the song for 30 minutes when writing till I get into this hypnotic space, and that's what happened here," he says. "I don't know where that riff came from but it's one of my favorites on the record." There's a sense of nostalgic desire and remorse across these songs, no more potent than "On A Wire," with Cudlip remembering "all the little parts of you" above a crest of crashing percussion, his lines echoed by the expression of his guitar. French artist Soko takes the lead vocal duties on "Become," which rides an interwoven bassline between gauzy guitars, both shimmering and shattered. "This is the most collaborative track on the record, and it's cool when that works out, I couldn't have made this song what it is by myself," adds Cudlip. One of the shortest and sweetest songs on the album "Chipper" channels woozy downcast guitar phrasing with clear-eyed pop directness. It's succinct structure attests to both brash confidence and an aloof curtness. It is a love song written with smite, an indictment of fleeting lust. Where debuts often feel full of rough-hewn potential, Launder has crafted a deeply honed collection that is happening right now. A process-oriented album, the work of a person maturing with their art, the sound of a songwriter pushing through their limits with thrilling and anthemic outcomes.