Coming nearly three years after the release of “You Won’t Get What You Want”, the incredible noise-rock masterpiece from his band Daughters, and more than a year’s worth of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, vocalist, lyricist, and poet Alexis Marshall has finally released his debut album. Needless to say, all eyes are on him to see if this LP will actually live up to the hype, not just because of the context of this release but also the fact that the question remains if Marshall is able to release great music without the great artistry of his other band members. Now that “House of Lull. House of When” is finally released, I can safely say that Alexis Marshall more than proved himself.
Not to beat to death his connection with Daughters, but if you’re expecting another Daughters album or a “You Won’t Get What You Want pt. 2” your expectations are misguided and you’ll likely be disappointed. In contrast to that record’s visceral and physical qualities, as well the fact that you can listen to that record for it’s typical rock qualities, “House of Lull . House of When” is more of dread filled record, building in droning uneasiness, percussive instrumentation, and atonal foley noises. Part of this dark, harrowing sound palette is made by Alexis’s bandmate Jon Syverson on drums, Seth Manchester on production and audio engineering, and musical contributions from Evan Paterson of Jaye Jayle and Kristin Hayter of Lingua Ignota, as well as from Alexis himself. I actually think think it’s really important to note Hayter’s contributions to this record, since as a fan or hers I can hear a bunch of Lingua Ignota inspired ideas on this record, like industrial bass, dark toned pianos, and harrowing strings, as well as an actual vocal performance on the album’s fifth track.
It is Alexis, however, that is at the center of it all, and if you’re a fan of his lyricism or vocal styling then you’re in more than good hands. This record is Alexis Marshall unrestrained and out of body, jumping from cold and inhuman to full on psycho and demented. The lyrics don’t follow typical song structures but more like lyrical ideas that build on each other like mantras, which provides a harrowing effect. Some of the themes on Marshall’s writing include paranoia, anxiety and depression, the fear of living during the pandemic, and an claustrophobic internal monologue, and the fact that the lyrics feel like repetitive streams of thought or commands from an unhinged cult leader makes those themes cut right through the music. It makes sense why Alexis chose to go in a more experimental and droning direction for the instrumentation, as these aren’t ideas that you would want to let loose in the pit to, rather choosing to sink to the floor and scream your lungs out. Sometimes this leads a few of the weaker songs to feel like they’re meandering on the same note, but more often than usual it’s effective and building a sense of dread until it reaches a boiling point.
“House of Lull . House of When” is an extremely emotionally crushing record that only could have been made by the unique mind of Alexis Marshall. It’s a vision that’s unique to him and I think he absolutely killed it. “House of Lull. House of When” is a musical abyss that you will drown in, whether you want to or not, and it’s the twisted listening experience that could have only come from Alexis Marshall.