Vague aspects regarding the makeup of Tropic of Cancer have been present since the band emerged with The Dull Age, though who exactly did what remained as gauzily unclear as the murky soundscapes that characterised that highly prized 10” on Downwards. With that debut and the subsequent trickle of Tropic Of Cancer material, it’s been assumed that Juan Mendez aka Silent Servant was a driving creative force within the band alongside his partner Camella Lobo. Such assumptions are naturally born out of association given Mendez’s at times growling vocals (on “Be Brave” in particular) as well as his role within the Sandwell District enclave alongside Regis and a predilection for the industrial and post-punk forms of music that serve an intergral part of the Tropic of Cancer DNA.
It’s with the arrival of the three track Permissions Of Love, released somewhat surprisingly on the Italian minimal wave label Mannequin, that the cloak of mystique surrounding Tropic Of Cancer has finally cleared. In a recent interview with FACT, Lobo emerged from the shadowy sanctity of the band’s cultish mysticism to claim creative control of the project, while acknowledging the trail of willing confusion that has preceded the band.
Despite this revelation, you shouldn’t expect any discernible stylistic curveballs on Permissions Of Love; the three tracks within are still steeped in the arcane droning textures of previous Tropic Of Cancer material. The changes are instead subtle, as new elements are gently teased into the makeup of each subsequent track. Upon first listen, the downtrodden trudge of opening missive “The One Left” remains closest to the template, yet it’s a song characterised by the lack of claustrophobia that surrounds its various elements. The brittle drum beats don’t feel like they’re struggling to escape the surrounding envelope of echoed sound while Lobo’s vocal discourse on the subject of love remains just below the level of discernible.
Having just sat through the entirety of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks for the first time, it’s little coincidence that the first imagery that sprang to mind as “Beneath The Light” struggles under the soporific weight of those spectral organs is Lobo and company on stage at The Roadhouse treating the establishment’s attendees to an all too incongruous performance whilst Margaret Lanterman (and her log) look on disapprovingly. Complementing this is the all too dreamy final moment “It’s All Come Undone” which unfurls with fuzzy edged calm into soft, soothing tones of echo laden ambient synths which drag Lobo’s barely audible vocals slowly into the darkest recesses before disappearing as the runout groove approaches.
A. The One Left
B1. Beneath The Light
B2. It’s All Come Undone