Posts Tagged ‘lycia

08
Nov
09

Splashdown – Stars and Garters (2006)

Splashdown-StarsMusical neighbors, to a certain extent, of Boo Trundle and Laika, but encompassing a more user-friendly presentation, Splashdown has grabbed hold of something here, and you can too. It’s part groovy dance-trance that goes for the jugular, complete with synthesized sitars

(“Thunder,” which could have been penned by the likes of Laika), part understated Hooverphonics (“Presumed Lost”), part snarling evil-woman, Throwing Muse-ish burn (“Beguiled”) and even part historical, I’m-too-clever-for-my-own-good Jane Siberry (“So Ha,” a quirky gem). Owner of that voice, Melissa Kaplan, with little or no effects on her vocals easily flips back and forth between sounding lovely and menacing, as cute and disturbing as a pretty little girl burning ants with a magnifying glass.

When Splashdown aren’t rocking out, or being whimsical, the loose funkys are the norm, and they’ll make you move as well as anyone. But it’s with the more unusual, complex tunes that they do the most for me. The flowing, mysterious timbre of “Deserter,” as well as the equally unusual “So Ha” are eagerly relished, the former showcasing just how remarkable a vocalist Ms. Kaplan is.

¬†Somewhat drum-n-bass in the guise of Lida Husik, “Running With Scissors” closes an unusual and very often compelling album. By the time it finishes, you may very well do a double-take, or you might just be so enchanted that minutes pass before you realize the music’s stopped.

Splashdown’s Stars and Garters receives a score of 3.5 out of 5 stars

08
Nov
09

Lycia – The Burning Circle And Then Dust (2006)

Lycia-BurningCircleWhat, another Lycia album? Didn’t I say they were kinda formulaic? It’s true they’re usually working with a restricted palette, however this is the Lycia album you should get if you want to check them out. Then if you like what you hear, get Estrella. Both recordings are essential. Everything clicked on this album.

Lycia found out they could make beautiful music. It’s still gorgeously dark and haunting, and Mike VanPortfleet still half-whispers his vocals as if from the grave, but wow, there is actually some melody here! The general impression from all the heavily treated guitar and synth is of the glory days of shoegaze, and the band Slowdive in particular. The sound is so full, electric and alive that you want to keep reaching for the volume knob because more = better, without limit. You simply cannot turn up the volume too loud on this album, and it has the distinction of being the loudest thing I have ever played on my stereo. It’s a good thing the neighbors were away!

More deep, deep burbling bass and drum machine, more densely layered washes of guitar and keyboards yearning for the stars. As opposed to other Lycia offerings, the warmth here is a definite and welcoming presence, Even in the macabre “In the Fire and Flames” there is familiar humanity. They come very close to creating a pop song with “Pray” which is further notable as the first time the beatbox has been turned up past 20 bpm (not much of an exaggeration). The other standout track, “Where Has All The Time Gone” presents a magnificent and melancholy paean of dark romanticism. The heights reached by the humming symphony of lush sustained reverberations are mesmerizing. Gorgeous!

The Burning Circle And Then Dust was originally released as a double album, but was then scaled back to include just the first disc, definitely the better half. You have probably not heard much like Lycia, so let their sonic masterpiece be your introduction.

The Burning Circle And Then Dust receives 5 out of 5 stars.

07
Nov
09

Lycia – Estrella (1998)

Lycia-EstrellaNow THIS is more like it! Where Cold was, umm, cold, Estrella is, well, it’s cold as well, but in a much more interesting way, more along the lines of The Burning Circle and Then Dust, and the two Tara tracks off Cold. It’s probably no coincidence then that Tara takes on most of the vocal duties here. Most of the songs attain a majestic, if a little disturbing and creepy, glory, marked by the usual Lycia imprints of haunting swirls and scorching guitar.

A satisfying fullness of sound and melody permeates every stark corner and half-forgotten wasteland, delivering the music of the stars. As if tapping into some ancient memory of archaic tribal rituals, “El Diablo” and the wordless “Tongues” raise the hairs on the back of your neck, in true Lisa Gerrard fashion as they weave exotic mosaics of utterly mesmerizing sound. You often have the sense of overload, as if staring into a bright light, but once overcoming the relative austerity of the surroundings you can clear away the fog and impending doom to marvel at the remarkable sights. “The Canal” creates another wordless, repetitive groove, a dramatic incantation summoning unknown powers from across the universe.

I once witnessed Trance To The Sun perform something like this, and it was both unsettling and rapturous. This album, and Lycia in general, demands volume to do them justice. And if the surroundings become a little too ominous, “Estrella” and “Silver Sliver” lighten the load by sounding uncharacteristically upbeat and beautiful in a much brighter and less demanding sense. Lycia made a smart move on this album. Tara’s voice is perfectly suited to the music, and the regained melodic content and more exotic flair now and then etch themselves firmly in your subconscious without becoming irritating. Estrella is a remarkable feat of balance.

Lycia’s Estrella gets 4 out of 5 stars.

07
Nov
09

Lycia – Cold (1997)

lycia-coldMaking 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.




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