During the five years between Nerve Up and Hinterland, Lonelady's Julie Campbell built a home studio, released the 2011 album Psychic Life with Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, and then withdrew into a period of introspection. After exploring and holing up in Manchester's decaying outskirts, she returns with some of her biggest-sounding and most kinetic music. While Nerve Up was a rough gem full of angular punk-funk and brisk acoustic pop made all the more striking in its juxtapositions, the way Campbell brings these sounds together on Hinterland is just as compelling. It's also more immediate, as though her isolation concentrated her music into even more artfully chiseled melodies, rhythms, and imagery. Propelled by beats ranging from slinky to funky, these songs are even more structurally sound than before: Hinterland's undulating groove and pristine cello sounds like Rufus and Arthur Russell crossing paths, while Campbell's guitar work -- which spans harmonics and riffs that sparkle and slice like a knife's edge -- serves as a reminder that she's as distinctive and formidable a player as St. Vincent. Meanwhile, "Groove It Out" feels like the culmination of all her projects to date, fusing the irresistible beat of Nerve Up's title track -- which feels like a blueprint for much of Hinterland -- and Psychic Life's taut post-pop as it moves from driven to joyful and reaffirms that dancing and thinking aren't such strange bedfellows. Indeed, there's a remarkable playfulness and sensuality to many of these songs, given the circumstances that inspired them. "I don't want the factual life...take me deeper," Campbell sings on "Into the Cave," an invitation she follows with the literally underground anthem "Bunkerpop," where, beneath the surface, she longs for connection with a mixture of hunger and defiance. On each song, she makes lost and abandoned spaces (physical and otherwise) sound vital and personal, using phrases like "rubble" and "corrugated iron" with the ease and frequency that other artists use "love" and "baby." Whether she's alone but not lonely on "Silvering" or truly isolated on the desolate ballad "Flee!," Hinterland's tough, hard-won beauty reveals Campbell coming into her own.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares