Before listening to Storybook I had no idea about LTO. The album just dropped in my lap without any context, which is the best way to approach it in my opinion. It’s one of those albums which feels personal, like discovering a little treasure that’s only yours. Therefore, I’ll leave listing the biographical info to other journalists and focus on the record instead. But it is worth mentioning that the Bristol-based producer LTO was part of the Old Apparatus collective, and as LTO he’s already released one previous long-player called The Number From Which All Things Come.
The titles of the songs are very basic, be it ‘Storybook’, ‘Tape Loops’, ‘When’ or ‘Moment’, which goes with the feelings the songs evoke. The LP, combining humble piano pieces with crackling beats and field recordings, reaches something personal, simple, but pure and naturally melancholic. Maybe it’s due to the retro electronica and downtempo arrangements together with the song writing, but the whole album definitely has a hypnagogic quality. It evokes fragments of music you think you’ve heard before, but you can’t be quite sure when or how. It captures that similar atmosphere of sadness of something that’s gone forever, or a painful gratefulness for the sun coming up in the morning.
The album opens with ‘Change’, a mellow and lonely melody, softly wrapped in organs and recordings of chatter and play, which creates a shivering feeling of long lost childhood memories. The piano pieces like ‘Rise’ and ‘Storybook’ have the similar escalating structure of many post rock songs, as well as a pinch of pathos. ‘When’ uses a rattling beat made of field recordings above which hovers the main organ instrument like a storyteller, describing an unsettling story of an unspoken event which occurred a long time ago. ‘Moment’ is the most experimental piece on the LP due to the electric sound palette and samples of trumpets, which swirl in a noisy wind, disturbing the beat of the classical song structure.
My absolute winner on Storybook is ‘Tape Loops’, which I heard for the first time on my way home at night and it stayed with me long after I closed my eyes. Two favourite chords, a sampled vocal which strongly resembles Damon Albarn’s soothing yet wistful voice, a crunchy metallic beat, and most of all, the beautiful line of guitar noise in which it all gets lost. If nothing else would sound familiar to you, this will. Honestly, I feel like I’ve known this song for years.
The cover art depicts a plant from which life has crumbled and evaporated and left it with dried out veins. But it still looks beautiful in its fragility and complexity, capturing the glimpse of the circle of life. There isn’t much joy on this album - or hate, for that matter. It doesn’t reflect the world’s recent events or some lofty theme. But this isn’t necessary; it’s powerful in the balance between sadness and hope, and it’s personal. You just close the door behind the whole world and be alone, allowing yourself to feel all the nuanced emotions of life.
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Released June 23, 2017