THE FVCKHEAѪTED LVNG
by Sunk Heaven
Regular edition gatefold vinyl
On THE FVCKHEAѪTED LVNG, New York visual artist and musician Austin Sley-Julian of Sunk Heaven might convince you the lungfish is the spirit animal of 2021. He explains the creature’s significance - “Lungfish survive severe drought by laying dormant in dry mud within a membrane until the rain - the emergence of the dormant lungfish from under the drought-ridden mud represents the garish reality of our times, uncovering the thin veil it wore for so long.” On one level, burrowing beneath the soil is a survival mechanism, on another it’s hiding - either way, it testifies to isolation. THE FVCKHEAѪTED LVNG is noisy but lucid, fittingly never falling into tropes or molds of academic experimentalism or no-wave. Within its sounds is a reverence for the body and an entreaty to reason. It isn’t an album that dwells on what’s proper, instead focusing on what is, or what must be. Survival is necessary, as can be extreme lengths. But when the time to break from your timed tomb comes, do you choose to hit the snooze button?
Dormancy and what is to be done with it is foremost in the album’s questioning and analysis. On the kinetic, techno-influenced first song “Fortitude,” Sley-Julian peels back the mud, showcasing a possible role of creation in opposition to permanent inactivity - music has the capacity to cure alienation, to create solidarity, to pierce a membrane. As the song metamorphoses from a club banger into a gentle, exposed ballad, there’s a break through the surface - “Siphon sound through sleeping crown,” he incants. “High as might I steal your creed, I cut through their scan, their drone, I awaken blank and starved.”
Sley-Julian draws the throughline from dormancy to inequality and societal brutality. The surreal, dub-drenched “A Nameless Influence” nods more directly to the lineage of violence, of the capacity for sleeping minds to become co-opted by someone else’s political agenda, bad actors, especially. “Have you ever seen such a tragic red,” he asks at the song’s beginning, “as time stains on the same mistakes?” Harsh noise pans in and out, left to right in the composition, re-enforcing the song’s central image - “A nameless influence leads me to the West’s din.” Once led there, can the drowsy individual break through the static?
There is a weirdness to THE FVCKHEAѪTED LVNG - as if the typography doesn’t tip us off - but what is weirdness if not the breaking apart of norms? Even songs like the elegiac “Phoenix,” with operatic vocals by Rachael Uhlir who was a collaborator on the composition, break the mold of classic delicacy. The piece brandishes coiling synths and atonal textures that take the song just a step outside of comforting, allowing for a singular disquiet to exist among the beauty.
It’s serendipitous that THE FVCKHEAѪTED LVNG’s release parallels a new wave of cicadas. Cicadas are another species that lie dormant before self-excavating from the earth, though Cicadas will do it for years at a time rather than in seasons. Their trebly drone cakes the world like few things. There’s a cacophony to it, but within the buzzing timbre is the sound of life. Like cicadas, THE FVCKHEAѪTED LVNG is loud - it makes its presence known, one that finds elegance in its abrasive qualities. Push through a shell or a membrane, and become enraptured by the other side.