Cruel Optimism

Album Review of Cruel Optimism by Lawrence English.

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Cruel Optimism

Lawrence English

Cruel Optimism by Lawrence English

Release Date: Feb 17, 2017
Record label: Room40
Genre(s): Electronic

77 Music Critic Score
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Cruel Optimism - Very Good, Based on 8 Critics

AllMusic - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

Australian Lawrence English is one of the leading exponents of a style that has come to be known as "power ambient." Combining the prolonged, soothing tones of ambient and drone music with intense volume and the crushing denseness and weight of noise or doom metal, his music, at once beautiful and terrible, is like an iron fist in a velvet glove. While his last album, 2014's Wilderness of Mirrors, began relatively delicately and built up only gradually to towering sonic peaks, this one plunges the listener right from the start into a raging maelstrom of sound. It's not noise -- it's definitely music, as there are subtle melodies and harmonies involved -- but it's noisy.

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PopMatters - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

Lawrence English's latest record, Cruel Optimism, takes its title from a recent philosophical work by American theorist Lauren Berlant. In it, she analyzes the societal desires that the populace shares (such as upward mobility), as well as how the society itself (through economical or social stratification) can no longer provide such opportunities and outlets for its people. Jumping off this, English says that this record analyzes power “both present and absent.

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Drowned In Sound - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

Lawrence English's Cruel Optimism is a self-described protest record against the less-than-desirable version of the future that we find ourselves hurtling towards. God knows I think many of us would take all of those we can get: anything to stem the flow of bile that flows from every news outlet these days and prop up the resistance to a terrifying future. But of course, defiance was never going to be easy or pretty, and much like the consumption of the current news cycle is overwhelming, English's music is a formidable force.

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The Skinny - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

Brisbane-based Lawrence English is a staggeringly prolific artist. His work as musician, curator and artist is often cerebral and conceptual and his latest release, Cruel Optimism, is an obliquely political album, based upon the presence or absence of power as evoked in the work of theorist Lauren Berlant. This transposition results in an album of staggering sonic heft and a listening experience akin to being drenched in dolorous fog with only temporary moments of visibility.

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Resident Advisor - 74
Based on rating 3.7/5
74

The title of Australian sound artist Lawrence English's new album, Cruel Optimism, is taken from a 2011 book by Lauren Berlant. To Berlant, cruel optimism is "when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing"--specifically, when people dream of prosperity and security in societies that can no longer provide them. English's choice of title is also apt in the current climate: when reality threatens so much turmoil and suffering, optimism, though surely necessary for survival, can seem oddly cruel.

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Resident Advisor - 74
Based on rating 3.7/5
74

The title of Australian sound artist Lawrence English's new album, Cruel Optimism, is taken from a 2011 book by Lauren Berlant. To Berlant, cruel optimism is "when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing"--specifically, when people dream of prosperity and security in societies that can no longer provide them. English's choice of title is also apt in the current climate: when reality threatens so much turmoil and suffering, optimism, though surely necessary for survival, can seem oddly cruel.

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The Line of Best Fit - 70
Based on rating 7/10
70

Cruel Optimism takes its title from American professor and author Lauren Berlant's book from 2011 on, among other things, the shortcomings of postwar capitalism in the US and Europe and its promise of a better life. English contemplates the numerous manifestations of injustice and unrest abroad and also closer to home in Australia, stating the album is "a meditation on these challenges and an encouragement to press forward toward more profound futures. " Can electronic drone be a natural inheritor of the spirit of protest music claimed in previous generations by folk revivals and loquacious journeymen with scuffed Gibsons? Maybe the answer is blowin' in the alternatingly cacophonic and catatonic winds of Cruel Optimism.

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The Quietus
Their review was positive

Lawrence English's new opus, Cruel Optimism, follows in the footsteps of his last solo foray Wilderness Of Mirrors: it deals with fear, both without (the continual global hotspots of wrack and ruin now exacerbated by the looming threat of fascist superpowers of the Western world with the end of the tunnel stretching away like the nightmares of a child) and within (the turmoil that such external forces inherently manifest in us). It also, like his 2011 masterpiece The Peregrine, features a title ripped from an influential book - this time a tome on social-capitalist trappings and the inevitable demise that such unattainable fantasies bring about by American theorist Lauren Berlant. English's preoccupations have always been with how sound communicates across different planes - his two-suite composition Vienta harnessing wind in Patagonia and Antarctica to construct an awestruck snapshot of the fury of Mother Nature; Kiri No Oto creating the aural equivalent of fog using the theory of harmonic dissonance; even his recent collaboration with Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu, HEXA, is to create the sonic backdrop for David Lynch's series of factory photographs.

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