Here is another odd gem from Poland’s Weakie Discs, a small independent imprint with excellent taste, this time in the experimental acoustic pop of the mysterious Lxnnnie. This is the second Weakie release I have reviewed and I am very impressed with what I have heard so far; someday, I am going to buy a bunch of releases from them because such creative, productive operations deserve support. Lxnnnie is a singer songwriter whose primary weapons are an acoustic guitar and a very demented world view. Now, those who read my review of Mitski’s fantastic album Retired From Sad, New Career In Business last year might recall my opinion of solo acoustic acts (I believe the term I used was “acoustic-guitar-wielding Bob Dylan acolytes”). Lxnnnie is definitely a singer songwriter with an acoustic guitar, but he is completely unlike any coffee shop chanteur/euse you will hear. Using clever production techniques, thirteen simple folky tunes are transformed into an hour-long collection of dark, hazy fever dreams that are equally eerie and irresistible.
According to the artist’s bio on the Weakie Discs website, Lxnnnie’s whereabouts are currently unknown, though, wherever he is, he has been honing his craft, self-releasing more than twenty-five albums since the mid-‘90s. This experience is reflected in the music, which is very dark, but never hits you over the head with oppressive melancholy. Lxnnnie instead takes an eerie, more understated path: alongside the expected acoustic guitar and vocals, he weaves in audio samples from news reports, educational films, and old television shows, as well as occasional electronic touches, backmasking, nature sounds, and minimal thumping percussion. In addition, though his singing voice is naturally rather low, he pitch-shifts it even deeper in places, and he even does some incredible tape manipulation on tracks like “Historically Laughing,” “Deer With Headlights,” and “Grunge Muppets,” where everything hastens and slows in woozy waves. This last production technique I have the most appreciation for, because, though the changes are clear as they are occurring, they never detract from the song itself – they even enhance the song, in a way. All these methods and tricks come together in a sound Lxnnnie calls “Schizodelic,”creating a hallucinogenic atmosphere for listeners to dwell in. This immersive nature of the music supports and adds to the themes of madness, failure, and violence explored in the lyrics on Playing Spades With Satan, building an artistic space where sanity is foreign and remote.
All of Lxnnie’s clever production helps serve the dark lyrical themes on Playing Spades With Satan. The atmosphere found throughout these thirteen tunes reinforces and underscores phrases like the refrain “I historically laugh at myself/getting drunk and waste all the brain cells I got left/I can’t remember what it is I don’t want to forget/come to think of it I don’t really give a shit” on “Historically Laughing,” delivered through downward pitch-shifted vocals and a bouncing strummed rhythm that gives the song a demented, other-worldly quality and an earworm catchiness. There are many moments on this album where one might find themselves singing along, until they take a minute to ponder what exactly it is they are singing and think, “Oh my, that’s morbid – but it’s so catchy!” This album is full of gloomy gems, twinkles in an ebony sea, often regarding the inevitability of failure, madness and delusion, and violence: “playing spades with satan/same damn hand since I was a kid” on the titular opener; “What did I do? No one knows. What the hell is on my clothes?” from “Sleep Killing”; “someday, you’ll be in my headlights” from “Deer With Headlights”; “everybody breeds my sick disease ‘cause everybody bleeds the same as me” on “Syneasthesian Psyclosis.” The crowning jewel of this album is “Luminol,” which I will not waste words trying to describe, because it is a solid, well-written song you should discover for yourself. Track after track, everything clicks, creating beautiful, disturbing folk pop explorations of a deranged mind. Weakie Discs’ website suggests that these songs are all possibly about one violent schizophrenic, and that certainly makes sense given how well these tunes flow and play off of each other, but either way, Playing Spades With Satan is an incredible collection of off-kilter pop full of strong song-writing and clever production. This is a must have.