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Lucid Express
Lucid Express James Gui , July 12th, 2021 07:28

Hong Kong favourites Thud have changed their names to Lucid Express and produced an album of swirly, shoegazey goodness, finds James Gui

Time has a strange way of passing in Hong Kong. Take the obsession of director Wong Kar Wai over expiration dates in Chungking Express, or the romantic fluctuations that cross temporal boundaries in 2046. And for Hong Kong dream pop outfit Lucid Express (fka Thud), conventional timelines also do not apply, at least for their recorded material. They’ve been at it since 2012, building a name for themselves locally as Thud. But their latest and only release (aside from a few singles) was six years ago, a lovely EP titled Floret that made small waves in Asia. This year, after the tumultuous combination of the 2019 anti-extradition law protests and COVID-19 pandemic, the band have had a rebirth of sorts, shedding their erstwhile name and finally releasing their debut self-titled album. Lucid Express is a slow-cooked album with elements of shoegaze and synthpop that simmer within its sound palette, sure to satisfy fans of the genre with its spacious arrangements and musical quotations of stalwarts like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.

It’s been five years since Ben Cardew interrogated the boringness of shoegaze in this very publication. Boring or not, however, shoegaze has had incredible staying power in Asia. And this record might be the perfect testament to why. Cardew admits that “music can arguably be enjoyable without being progressive”, and this first full-length effort by Lucid Express is certainly a joy to listen to. Though they say that they didn’t set out to be a shoegaze band, Lucid Express display their influences with honesty, earnestness and aplomb: the noisy pitch bends in the first two bars of ‘Ado’ sound like the intro to an MBV b-side. The track later shifts into poppier territory, a touch of honey in the typical bittersweet shoegaze concoction. ‘Prime of Pride’ also quotes MBV in its lovely arpeggios and haunting synth lead. They check all the boxes: reverb, distortion, walls of sound. But it’s the way that the band combine these elements to craft an auditory universe that makes the record worth listening to. Wai’s drum programming on ‘Aquarium’ submerges the ear; Kim’s vocals on ‘Ride the Night’ are yearningly locomotive. In the claustrophobically dense city of Hong Kong, it’s no wonder the escapism of Lucid Express’s expansive and capacious soundscapes have held the scene in thrall.

In a way, Lucid Express are Hong Kong’s worst-kept secret. Despite their dearth of recorded material, anyone with their ear to the ground in the city will name them as a favourite, and they’ve opened for indie darlings The Cribs and Beach Fossils. With a feature from The Bilinda Butchers’ Adam Honingford on this record and a remix by Yuck’s Max Bloom on Floret, they’re living proof that the “scene that celebrates itself” knows no borders. Nine years on, this long-overdue debut breaks no new ground, but it doesn’t need to. With a simple goal of making music they’d want to listen to, Lucid Express have already succeeded.