Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork — freshly laundered second album with surprising warmth at its core

Quartet reunite with John Parish at Rockfield Studios for this new collection of songs showcasing their playful, disarming potency

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Artist: Dry Cleaning
Label: 4AD

Upon returning to Rockfield Studios to once again work with John Parish, the quartet of Florence Shaw, Nick Buxton, Tom Dowse and Lewis Maynard have achieved both a continuation and departure of the sound drawn on 2021′s New Long Leg. It is richer, and with a surprising warmth at its core.

Perhaps the beauteous Anna Calls from the Arctic has nothing to do with the 1922 silent film Nanook of the North, but it doesn’t matter, because Dry Cleaning tend to inspire free association in their listeners as much as anything. Kwenchy Cups and its search for otters amid pleasing guitars mirrors the folk-influenced Gary Ashby, a jangle-pop lament for a lost family tortoise — it’s like Broadcast-meets-Dexys Midnight Runners. There is discordant drama to withstand on the eerie Hot Penny Day, with its sense of “male violence everywhere”, but it shares space with the delicate grace of No Decent Shoes for Rain and its sardonic wit amid driving guitars: “It’s so good to meet you, but not here, obviously.”

Snippets from press cuttings of archivist Edda Tasiemka are scattered throughout, as well as less-obvious references (Costa Coffee), and that’s part of this record’s beauty — conflating alternative universes. Don’t Press Me’s jauntiness pushes Shaw to sing freely, with the pace shifting on Liberty Log and its pared-back, elegant guitars. Stumpwork hears Shaw teasing, “Come here you little party hat, let me squeeze you.” It is weirdly illustrative of Dry Cleaning’s playful, disarming potency.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture