Bleach Lab produce an atmospheric style of therapeutic rock music and with their debut have provided one of 2023's most captivating records.
With a collection of impressive EPs under their belt - the highlight being November 2022’s stunning If You Could Only Feel Once – blissful rockers Bleach Lab have slowly become the talk of the UK indie underground, growing a status as one of the country’s most unique new bands.
Earlier in 2023, the London-based band’s stock grew ever further due, in large part, to their selection as the main support act for indie veterans We Are Scientists on their UK Lobes tour. Bleach Lab provided an introspective contrast to the noughties garage rock band’s theatrics, winning over many a new admirer in the process. And in the months which followed, the four piece’s profile continued to rise.
Fast forward to September 2023 and their debut has finally arrived: a textured indie record well worthy of the acclaim it followed. Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness – the title of which is a line borrowed from Leonard Cohen’s posthumous collection The Flame – is an album which packs in the emotion without ever becoming overbearing.
The record was produced against a backdrop of heartache anguish for singer Jenna Kyle. The ending of a toxic and unhealthy relationship experienced by Kyle ensures a general theme of introspective sadness is heard throughout. Yet such honesty feels like therapy. Her words are soundtracked by expansive instrumentalism both hazy and jangly in equal measure - the glittering guitar work of Frank Wates often threatening to steal the show.
At first glance, album opener ‘All Night’ sounds like an innocent love song, the singer spelling out desire for a distant partner. Instead, the song grows into something more sinister as obsession and lust take over. The singer explains she wanted “the listener (to) pick up on the darker theme” after a few listens. All in all, the layer-filled curtain raiser makes for an impressive start.
On ‘Indigo’, the soundscape moves towards a more upbeat palette. This, in turn, contradicts Kyle’s melancholic lyrics which grip the listener to the pain she’s suffering. Her words are ever so familiar to those who’ve ever experienced a rough break-up themselves: “The thing I hate about sleeping / Is finding out I’ve been dreaming / Cause when I closed my eyes / I was lying next to you”. Meanwhile, the guitar work of Wates provides a nod in the direction of The Cure: a spine-tingling riff which, by the time the closing outro appears, reaches us into a state of absolute bliss.
The atmospheric ‘Counting Empties’ uncovers bassist Josh Longman’s state of isolation in the wake of alcoholism and heartache (“There’s emptiness inside of me / I was sad before I was lonely” repeats Jenna Kyle, taking the position of her depressed bandmate). The song’s highlight is saved for the bridge and Wates melancholic solo.
The dreamy ‘Saving All Your Kindness’ alters the vibe once more, though is more on the skippable side than the engrossing tracks it has followed. Then we arrive at the album’s clear high point: ‘Everything At Once’. The album’s midpoint track sounds a lot like something Wolf Alice would produce, layers of depth are added through an industrial bassline and the now familiar blissful guitar licks. Kyle is at her evocative best: “I've been numb for so long / 'Cause I'd rather feel nothing than everything at once” she sings in the chorus.
After such a captivating start, the second half of the record doesn’t quite match the opening run for ethereal intensity but still manages to awe. The grungy ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ carries on the melancholic theme with a little swagger thrown in for good measure, while the dramatic ‘Never Coming Back’ is pure heartache pain: “You hit me like a car crash burning through the sky / It only took one moment / Baby, you were gone in the blink of an eye” reminisces Kyle.
The theatrics are continued on the atmospheric and angry ‘Smile For Me’, the singer taking aim at the expectation which often follows romantic advances from strangers. It’s a track the singer describes as “one of the most empowering but challenging songs to write on the album.” A slow burner, yet one worthy of giving the time to celebrate. ‘Life Gets Better’ then swims against the collective tide of sadness. A summery guitar sound and a repeated refrain of the song’s title provides us with some light at the end of the tunnel after the doomed melancholia we’ve gotten used to.
There’s a certain underrated dynamism to Lost In A Rush Of Emptiness which can’t be ignored. A collection of nostalgic tracks which differ just enough from song to song to keep the listener hooked: bringing together elements of dream-pop, grunge, shoegaze and jangle-pop for a cathartic experience. Sadness reigns without ever becoming too self-pitying. Instead, the record acts as therapy, not just for Bleach Lab, but for the listener itself. A strength of which keeps us diving back into this dreamy and beautiful debut time and again.