LIELA MOSS, “Internal Working Model” (Bella Union, 2023)

This is the third solo album from the Duke Spirit vocalist and an excellent album it is! Whilst the first album My Name is Safe in Your Mouth was a diverse haunting set of wyrd folk songs, her latest album is a progression to electronic music – an album where the singer touches on facets of the dystopian present and near future! The atomisation of society – individuals becoming isolated, alone, helpless to assert themselves against the uncaring, all-powerful state above them – watching, controlling, neutering! The rich and powerful blatantly adopting their own ‘fuck-you’ autonomy while the pliant masses are moulded to comply! Protest steadily becoming outlawed! The NHS openly run into the ground so that it seems like a mercy when the jackal-like Health Insurance Companies take over, profiting from the misery! No one mentions back-handers or conflicts of interest while wealthy MP’s line their own pockets and laugh in the face of common decency, spitting on the downtrodden and shitting all over humanity! Welcome to the dystopian present and near future! The Earth burns and the Four Horsemen get out the barbie – grinning insanely like Rishi Sunak!

Of course, Liela Moss only touches on such concerns, her pop sensibilities still intact, she airs her fears in commercial song settings. The lyrics often abstract, more suggestive than linear, more about feelings and emotions, a cry in the darkness! The music reflects the unease in songs like ‘Empathy Files’ where ominous synthesisers and electronics texture a claustrophobic angst-ridden realisation that the State has ‘…got data for miles on You.’ But there is also inherent hope in the songs, a desire for change and a belief that human goodness will eventually overcome the bad things happening in the world. In ‘Come and Find Me’ she champions the need for people to reconnect with each other, empathise, form groups or networks of support as she sings, ‘Come and find me, I’m empathy…and I’m not on your phone!’

There are some great melodies and expressive vocal performances on the album. At times, she reminds me of Sarah Blasko at her most colourful and daring! ‘The Wall from the Floor’ sounds like a James Bond theme with its ethereal vocals and ‘Bad World’ refrain! ‘Ache in the Middle’ meanwhile has a melody that falls somewhere in-between Tears for Fears Mad World and Kate Bush the Sensual World! ‘New Day’ feels like a hymn to World Leaders for a better tomorrow – a call to feel empathy for others, concern and love for each other! If the overall feel of the electronic music is one of dystopia, alienation and oppression, the intent, the motivation is human – love and kindness as the antidote to isolation and inertia, feelings of helplessness transformed into positivity and action!

(Graham Domain)

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