Composer, artist and Room40 founder Lawrence English is gearing up to release a new album in the new year. Entitled Cruel Optimism, the record follows on from his 2014 Wilderness Of Mirrors and it will see the light of day on February 17th. Taking its name and origins from a book by American theorist Lauren Berlant also called Cruel Optimism, Lawrence’s upcoming album “meditates on how power consumes, augments and ultimately shapes two subsequent human conditions: obsession and fragility”, describes the press release. Lawrence outlined the book’s influence:
“In Cruel Optimism, I found a number of critical readings around the issues that have fuelled so much of the music I have been making recently…particularly her writing around trauma I found deeply affecting. It was a jumping point from which a plague of unsettling impressions of suffering, intolerance and ignorance could be unpacked and utilised as fuel over and above pointless frustration”
He elaborates further on the album’s themes:
“As I have worked through Cruel Optimism, what seemed an unimaginable future just a few years prior, began to present as actual. Over the course of creating the record, we collectively bore witness to a new wave of humanitarian and refugee crisis (captured so succinctly in the photograph of Alan Kurdi’s tiny body motionless on the shore), the black lives matter movement, the widespread use of sonic weapons on civilians, increased drone strikes in Waziristan, Syria and elsewhere, and record low numbers of voting around Brexit and the US election cycle, suggesting a wider sense of disillusionment and powerlessness. Acutely for me and other Australians, we’ve faced dire intolerance concerning race and continued inequalities related to gender and sexuality. The storm has broken and feels utterly visceral. Cruel Optimism is a meditation on these challenges and an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures.”
To bring the record to life, Lawrence enlisted the help of several artists, including Mats Gustafsson, Norman Westberg and Thor Harris from the Swans, Tony Buck and Chris Abrahams from The Necks and the Australian Voices ensemble.
February seems like a long way away but we can already hear a first cut from the album, the otherworldly and ominously beautiful ‘Object Of Projection’.