Gerry Mitchell is a Scottish poet who makes Irvine Welsh sound like a verbose romantic. Various Production are the UK’s hottest production and remix team. The lovechild of this illicit coupling is an album dominated by Mitchell’s vitriolic verse. Only on three tracks do music and poetry truly gel and produce something bigger than the sum of its parts. For most of the album, Various Production’s folky film music plays second fiddle to Mitchell’s gnarly voice.
Mitchell comes across like a more virulent, more pared down version of the Trainspotting author, although he’s a good observer with a hawkish eye for detail. His themes focus largely on disenchanted and underpriviledged circles where ‘No Future’ is the order of the day: violence, racism, alcoholism and substance abuse feature heavily. Various Production, meanwhile, produce a sympathetic soundtrack full of dark freak folk and Krautrock. An eerie accordion lends ominous touches to proceedings. The folky elements are a first for Various and it seems they listened long and hard to Portishead’s 2008 comeback album Third when they put these tracks together.
Halfway into the album, Various flex their muscle and start messing with Mitchell’s voice, cutting up, stretching and repeating phrases. On ‘All Fall Down’, the rhythm of Mitchell’s reading finally clicks into the groove laid down by the ultra deep bass and drums. On ‘Robot Dialogue’, Mitchell’s reading of the piece is deconstructed and the music messes with the spoken word, leaving the listener disoriented. Various Production then take Mitchell’s recital of ‘Idiot Box’ and cut it up into phrases, before re-assembling the words around some Atari 8-bit noises that sound like a games arcade in total meltdown.
These three tracks alone make it worth your while checking out The Invisible Lodger. But there is much more to discover, like the grim realism of ‘English Estate’ or the Krautrock rhythms of ‘The Unwritten Book’. A bit frosty at first, The Invisible Lodger thaws out after a couple of listens and may well become a staple in your playlists for a long time.