L.A.’s Camella Lobo, assisted by in varying capacities by Taylor Burch of DVA Damas and Juan Mendez (best known as Silent Servant), records dirges on the edge of industrial and post-punk as Tropic Of Cancer. In an interview with Viva Radio, London-via-Melbourne duo HTRK aptly said of the project, “their songs are like a De Chirico painting, the same two or three elements perpetually re-arranged and reconfigured, ad infinitum; they seem helplessly trapped in the same ultra-depressive two-chord progression, unknowingly expressing the inertia that is the true darkness, and beautifully so.” That sameness equates to either an invitation or a deterrent, depending on whom you ask. If you’ve managed to cross that threshold, though, Tropic Of Cancer has the hopelessly addicting quality of a potential cult act.
Superficially, Permissions Of Love, Lobo’s first release on Italy’s Mannequin imprint after severing ties with Downwards, is more of the same. The chief elements — droning electronics, squalling guitars, simple, looping drum patterns, and despondent, unintelligible vocals — remain intact. Because Lobo is so intently focused on preserving the project’s aura, any modifications are that much more glaring. Fortunately, these changes are for the best — the arrangements are imbued with a newfound spaciousness, and the trebly, splintering highs of prior records have largely been smudged out. “The One Left” is like a wilted pop take on last year’s driving “Be Brave,” while funereal waltz “Beneath The Light” drags through a downcast procession of harmonium and moaned vocals. Best of all is the finale, “It’s All Come Undone.” Flecked with twanging surf guitar and shifty delay trails off an unusually dreamy vocal; it’s the closest Lobo has come to evoking a specifically Californian malaise. Endless repetition or not, Tropic Of Cancer have never sounded so vivid.