‘Reclaimed Memories’ is the debut album by Lloyd Carlton Robinson. Lloyd exploded onto Edinburgh’s spoken word scene in 2015 and has gone from strength to strength since then. He is the reigning Loud Poets Glasgow Slam Champion and he won the Edinburgh Uni LitSoc Slam in March 2016. He has been playing guitar since the age of 15, and has combined his love of rock music with his poetry to create something fresh and new.
I have been touring for the last week at the Prague Fringe Festival with the Loud Poets collective, and for this I have had to work closely with their musicians, three parts of the Ekobirds and Michael ‘Woody’ Wood. I was working with the pianist Sam Thorne to arrange an accompaniment to my piece Manifest Destiny, to which I waved vague hands in the direction of the chord progression in Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire. From this Sam and the rest of the musicians develop a phenomenal piece of improvised music, such that I often pause during the poem to listen to their work.
I start with that story as to emphasise how much I have enjoyed Lloyd Robinson’s debut album Reclaimed Memories. Not only did Lloyd write each of these pieces, but he also arranged, mixed, edited, and performed each musical instrument (with the notable exception of Nicole Skipper on piano during ‘Jump’). Beyond this, Reclaimed Memories translates Lloyd’s energetic stage presence in a way that feels natural to both the integrity of his work and his strengths as an artist. That this album manages to complete all of these things is impressive; that this album works is nothing short of incredible.
One of the unmistakable highlights of Reclaimed Memories is trying to figure out which came first, the musical arrangement or the lyrics. This is because sometimes the arrangements are so closely interwoven that it becomes hard to imagine that Lloyd didn’t come up with them at the same time. There is something awe-inspiring in the guitar riffs alongside ‘Future Children’, such that I reloaded the track several times in order to follow the arrangement under the lyrics. Lloyd’s range as a musician also helps each track to feel unique, while his poetic style and cadences provide an emotional unity that overlays the album.
If you want a place to start with Reclaimed Memories, I would recommend ‘A Man’s Guide To Escaping the Friendzone’. There was a moment when the start of a rock-n-roll drum rhythm coincided with a new movement in the poem that had me snorting through my tea. It was the kind of perfect moment of sublime unity between music and poetry that is so often imitated, but very rarely achieved with such apparent ease.
Lloyd’s musical awareness is essential in the success of the album. It is equally interesting to see how Lloyd’s style of constructing a live performance set translates into this album, beginning with poems that communicate who he is as a performer with ‘Islands’ and ‘Grandmother’, allowing to fall for an emotional nadir with ‘Jump’, while finishing with his known crowd-pleaser ‘Future Children’. The choice to follow ‘Last Time I Prayed’ with ‘Jump’ was a particularly heavy section of the album, that might have benefited with a lighter piece in-between. It is fascinating to see how performance styles translate into media such as EP’s and chapbooks, and following Lloyd after this album will be particularly interesting.
There is something beautifully melodramatic about Lloyd’s poetic voice in Reclaimed Memories. I can only that in the best of ways, in the ‘downing a bottle together’ way or ‘great shapes in the half light’ way. Here we encounter an artist with a genuine heart for the magnificence of life and its possibilities. Sometimes this might over-wash into sentiment, such as in the use of a reverb-voice mixer at the start of ‘Those That Survived’, but more often I am reminded as to why I love listening to Lloyd, or any great artist, perform. Because in those moments I am listening to someone who believes exactly what they are selling; and if you are selling anything, you better as hell believe in it.
There is also a secret track at the end of the album. I can’t tell is this is an homage to Marvel Post-Credit Scenes, or these thing we used to call CD’s. That is something I will have to ask my future children.