Making a Lycia album was always a formulaic undertaking for Mark Vanportfleet and Tara Vanflower: slow down your drum machine to a crawl, wash dramatically dark layers of synth over everything, emblazon tortured guitar licks and low humming bass across the night, whisper phrases sepulchrally as if you’re trying to frighten the children and just make everything sound like Armageddon is just around the corner.
Something happened with their previous one The Burning Circle and then Dust (review coming soon). Whether it was a favorable alignment of the planets or a temporary exorcism of dark spirits we’ll probably never know. Lycia created an amazingly rich and darkly gorgeous double album full of vibrant, brilliant sounds using virtually the same formula outlined above. It was more than enough to earn them my highest rating. Here and now, however, the stars don’t shine as brightly, and the dark muddiness has crept back in. Rather than uplifting paeans that ache to be played as loud as you can stand, all but two of the nine tracks become mired down with atonality and lack of direction. The two that rise above all else are the ones sung by Tara: “Snowdrop” and “Polaris.” The latter shows they can still deliver chills of pure delight. It’s repetitive, trance-inducing nature pervades all, and when Tara begins singing actual words besides “laa” most of the way through it will feel like you’ve been transported elsewhere.
Their next album, Estrella (also reviewed here), moves into this area a little more firmly, I am happy to say. Always slightly disturbing, but also fascinating now and then, Lycia sound utterly unique. Use sparingly for greater reward.
Lycia’s Cold gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.