Lawrence English – Cruel Optimism


CD – Room40

When we talk about sound-art, we know already that the images recalled are typically dystopian and inspired by a generic criticism of hyper-liberist and globalized society and this work also follows this pattern. Lawrence English is an Australian experimenter who has already shown his audience his familiarity to the references and the quotes of the contemporary musical avantgarde (Approaching Nothing) and to more intimate and rarefied weaves (Fable with Stephen Vitiello on Dragon’s Eye Recordings). This interpretation key, without specifically thinking of the contents, allows us to get a different meaning to the sounds. The sounds are relevant because of their formal expression: a refined style exercise. The sequences are sensitive and full of emphasis, dilated and epic, resonant but quiet too somehow. About Cruel Optimism, though the project may be considered a vibrant treatise with nothing other than its elegant stylizations, Lawrence English highlights “this is an album about power and how it may condition two fundamental aspects of humanity: obsession and fragility”. The work owns an inner coherence, related to the author’s feelings, in between a “private” and a “political” dimension. The title alludes to the theories of Lauren Berlant. According to him “a relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing”. The result of these theorical-existential weaves is involving and recalls the failure of a “good life”: the consciousnesses fold on themselves and this is a perception we can never fully trust. The Room40 label includes several artists who definitely are not easy, but still holding some grandeur, for example Taylor Deupree, Kenneth Kirschner, Richard Chartier and Marina Rosenfeld. The choice of Lawrence English confirms this artistic attitude. He does not leave the listener indifferent and is able to involve even an audience more expert and doubtful.


  • Lawrence English – Cruel Optimism