Archive for the ‘Lycia’ Category

Lycia — A Line That Connects

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

As vital trailblazers of ethereal darkwave, Lycia have produced nine studio albums that have evolved along a fascinating path: from the austere and cold drum machine-driven dirges written by founding member Mike van Portfleet into astounding dynamic soundscapes of ornate beauty that took Lycia’s distinctive bleak emotion into remarkably diverse stylistic territories. This breathtaking flourish occurred alongside the addition of David Galas and then Tara Vanflower to the project, resulting in some of the best albums of Lycia’s collection, such as The Burning Circle and Then Dust and the monumental effort that was Cold.

After the release of Empty Space in 2003, Lycia went quiet, with the odd solo effort from each of the band’s three members popping up here and there. It seemed Lycia were done, their tremendous contribution to a particular style of music mystifyingly underappreciated outside of their passionate fan base. Ten years later, Mike and Tara sprung a surprise, emerging from somnolence with Quiet Moments. With Tara singing on only a couple of tracks, it carried the feeling of something more of a solo effort from Mike. Nevertheless, it was a powerful reminder of the tremendous quality of Lycia; that they had returned not out of nostalgia, but as a group getting better at creating engulfing and exquisitely devastating music.

Two years on from that return, Lycia has now released their tenth studio album, A Line That Connects. This new record sees Lycia as a trio once again, with the immensely talented David Galas returning to the fold. If, with the benefit now of hindsight, Quiet Moments represented exciting prophecy, then A Line That Connects is a splendid resurrection foretold.

The new record is not just epic atmospherically, standing by its end at an hour and nine minutes. To their credit, none of this has been achieved by producing anything that gives the impression of being thrown in to seal up empty spaces, even if some tracks might seem more like bridges between others due to their relative brevity. Lycia’s new work holds you fast throughout with sweeping winds of scintillating gloom, compelling you to savour the fascination of the distant horizon. Each surge brings with it marvellous contrast, in one moment cutting across your skin with an icy regard, then effortlessly seizing your hair and filling you with the sense that you could take off and soar.

The sound on A Line That Connects rises as a sheer surface from the outset, like a towering unearthly cliff. If one were to debate that it is their best album since 1996’s Cold, then it undeniably has the best production on any Lycia record so far. The album glistens sonically as a treasure fashioned with great care, without being antiseptic. The huge effect of synths avoids the pitfall of suffocating the guitars. Whether the latter engages in clean and delicate notes and strums or eruptions of ferocious adrenaline, the elements stay out of each other’s way. The bass tones ring warm and clear and the vocals are free to provide the variation in effect and style that characterizes the album as a whole. When reverb plays such a big part, and when each instrument is aiming for the colossal, this really could have ended up a mess of detail bleeding into the amorphous. Alongside David Galas’ mixing efforts, the persistent genius of James Plotkin with the album’s mastering is clear.

Breaking the album down track by track can only provide a false impression. There is something for so many different tastes here. And yet, the album’s title resonates truly. A brooding darkness courses through the songs, whether each individual piece is lulling you into ecstasy or snarling with menace. Isolated from the whole, listening to the Swans-like industrial death march of “Illuminate” then the invocation of the Cocteau Twins in “Hiraeth” (featuring the wonderful Sera Timms of Black Mare and Ides of Gemini in a guest vocal appearance), one could be forgiven for thinking it was two completely different bands. Done properly — to sit down and lose yourself in the entirety of the album from beginning to end — the emotional connection is deep, powerful, and obvious. Whether you are a fan of drone, ambient, doom and other heavy music, goth, darkwave, shoegaze, post-rock or that 4AD sound (I could go on and on here), there will be something here for you to derive much joy from, perhaps broadening your palate along the way.

A Line That Connects finds Lycia as good as they get, a reverberant reminder of their priceless ability to create an immersive atmosphere built from huge sound. Such a progressive outcome through stylistic diversity shows that the band has a great deal to offer still, and should win them many new fans. One imagines that, more than twenty years after first becoming a three-piece outfit, this new album is as reinvigorating for them as much as it is for those who have long held a love for their music.

A Line That Connects is out now through Handmade Birds and Thrill Jockey.

The Black Captain will be hosting RTRFM’s Out to Lunch from 12pm (+8GMT) on September 3rd, as well as September 10th alongside Dave Cutbush.

Noiseweek: Stars of the Lid, Battles, We Lost the Sea, Chelsea Wolfe, Lycia

Friday, July 24th, 2015

The sights, sounds and words of the week in noise.


How Stars of the Lid Made Two Ambient Masterworks | Rolling Stone

Sometime after the release of their sixth studio album, 2001’s The Tired Sounds of the Stars of the Lid, Austin-borne drone duo Stars of the Lid quietly, patiently moved from obscurity into semi-obscurity, renown as the most acclaimed ambient musicians since the heyday of Brian Eno. The three-LP opus featured more than two hours of melancholy, wistful orchestral drones that swelled and dissolved, a home-brewed sound with the ambitions of minimalist composition and the insularity of indie rock. It didn’t make too much of a ripple upon its release beyond raves from alt-leaning press, but it slowly spread. In the 14 years since, a generation of similarly evocative composers — Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Ólafur Arnalds — have risen to prominence in Stars of the Lid’s wake. Vinyl copies of follow-up, 2007’s Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline, have sold for more than $200.

My Internet Band Signed a Record Deal Without Ever Meeting IRL | The Daily Beast

“The fact that we’re even in a band is a little crazy. For one thing, I live in Colorado. Our singer lives in Brooklyn. Our bass player lives in New Jersey about two months per year and spends the other 10 months touring the world with his other (very successful) band, Revocation. Our drummer lives in Virginia and also tours internationally with his other (also very successful) band, Municipal Waste.
As if geography weren’t enough to overcome, consider this: I knew the singer and the bass player, but had never met the drummer. Our drummer knew the bass player but had never met me or the singer. Our bass player knew me and the drummer, but had never met the singer. The singer knew me, but had never met the bass player or the drummer.
Confused? Let me put it this way: there wasn’t a single person in the band who had met all three other members. By the time I met the drummer—making me the first member to have met all three of my bandmates—we already had the bulk of an album written and had a handful of demos recorded and released, and we were considering signing to one of two labels.”

Unpopular Opinion: Jack White is the Worst Thing that Ever Happened to Rock | LA Weekly

“It’s not just Jack White’s music that I hate. I hate everything about him. I hate him for making Eric Clapton look like Son House. I hate his stupid hats. I hate his “Look at me, I’m so obscurely retro!”–shaped guitars. I hate that his entire career is built on matching outfits and twee appropriations of what is actually good music. I hate him because Brochella is filled with guys in bucket hats and koi sleeves who know every White Stripes song but have never heard The Mooney Suzuki, The Oblivians, The Delta 72 or the approximately 50,000 other bands who did the same thing Jack White tries to do but way, way better.”


Lycia — The Fall Back

At a little over two and a half minutes, The Fall Back sounds like an interlude — but that doesn’t make it any less devastating. Lycia remain masters of soul-crushing soundscapes, and even with the odd major key melody, Mike VanPortfleet’s dispassionate delivery over makes for a truly depressing yet truly beautiful listening experience. The track is taken from the trio’s forthcoming album A Line That Connects, out August 21 through Handmade Birds.

We Lost the Sea — Departure Songs

Sydney outfit We Lost the Sea lean towards the blues on their first instrumental album. While lead single and opening track A Gallant Gentleman feels like a celebratory eulogy for the group’s late frontman Chris Torpy, the rest of the record takes on a distinctly more downbeat tone. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise: the album’s copy describes the record as inspired by failed journeys, and the uncertain tone that permeates the record’s five songs seems like appropriate company for a road trip across uncharted territory. In any case, it’s a journey worth taking. Departure Songs is out now through Bird’s Robe and Art as Catharsis; see them on tour with Hope Drone this July and August.


Battles: The Art of Repetition

Step backstage with Battles in this Ableton-sponsored as the trio work on their new record, La Di Da Di, out September 18 through Warp Records.

Chelsea Wolfe — Dragged Out (Live)

It’s remarkable that Chelsea Wolfe can capture the menace of their studio sound in a live setting. In this professionally shot footage of Dragged in Amsterdam from the forthcoming Abyss, Wolfe and her band plod through the song’s droning, sludgy verses while eerie samples — either sonically manipulated field recordings of wind, or a voice twisted and imbued with the creepiness of horror cinema — sound out beneath the deluge. Abyss is out August 7 through Sargent House.

Noiseweek: Chelsea Wolfe, Lycia, Sumac and Tyranny is Tyranny

Friday, April 24th, 2015

The sights, sounds and words of the week in noise.


New book alert: Drag City are releasing a collection of posters from the Louisville punk scene that birthed the likes of Slint and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Though never as celebrated as a music capital the way Seattle, Nashville, New York or Chicago ever were, the Kentucky city played a pivotal role in the development of noise rock, hardcore and its others — names like Rodan, Squirrel Bait, June of 44, and more recently, Young Widows, Waxeater and Watter. Titled White Glove Test, the book brings together poster art from 1978–94 and is available for purchase at the Drag City website.


Seems like tribute records from the 90s are the new reunions. There’s currently crowdfunding campaign to finance a cover of Helmet’s debut Meantime, with contributions from KEN mode, Kings Destroy and The Atlas Moth among others. The starting goal is pretty low at $5,000 and as of writing a little over 40% of the way towards its target. Head over to the Kickstarter campaign page if you’re keen to throw some coin.


How Much is Music Really Worth? | Pitchfork

“Putting the debates about artists’ income from Spotify, Pandora, and their ilk in a broader historical context, it becomes clear that the money made from a song or an album has clearly decreased over the last several decades. What’s equally clear, though, is that the value of music is almost as subjective financially as it is aesthetically; the economics of music, it turns out, is more dark art than dismal science.”


Join The Chant? Pop’s Endlessly Problematic Relationship With Politics | The Quietus

“There’s a sense, some reckon, of heads-down expediency among today’s generation, that however tousled their hair may be or serrated their ‘indie’ guitar stylings, they are aspirational rather than countercultural. Is there even such a thing as the ‘counterculture’ anymore, outside of the dreams of 40-and-50-somethings brooding wistfully over their large vinyl collections? What has become of the insurrectionary spirit of rock’s halcyon years, before postmodernism set in and hip ironicism usurped an older, angrier spirit of authentic rage? Where is the Doc Marten energy of the old days, of rock music as soundtrack to petrol bombs and stand-offs with cordons of crewcut police?”


The Man Who Broke The Music Business | The New Yorker

“From 2001 on, [Dell] Glover was the world’s leading leaker of pre-release music. He claims that he never smuggled the CDs himself. Instead, he tapped a network of low-paid temporary employees, offering cash or movies for leaked disks. The handoffs took place at gas stations and convenience stores far from the plant. Before long, Glover earned a promotion, which enabled him to schedule the shifts on the packaging line. If a prized release came through the plant, he had the power to ensure that his man was there.”


Lycia — Silver Leaf

I first heard of Lycia when the late Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele described the Arizona outfit’s music as the most depressing he’s ever heard which is lofty praise from the drabbest of the drab four. Now a duo, Lycia remained largely dormant for the first decade of the 21st century before resurfacing in 2010. “Silver Leaf” is one half of a forthcoming split release with Black Mare through Earsplit, and it seems Steele’s description still holds true; if you start your morning with the tides of reverb that envelop Mike VanPortfleet’s stark incantations, you’re useless for the rest of the day.


Tyranny is Tyranny — The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Tyranny is Tyranny first came to my inbox about six months ago with word of their ambitious concept album, Let It Come From Whom It May, based on American writer and critic Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of The United States. Rarely is protest music infused with such a vivid aesthetic — in this case, a vivid and violent sound somewhere between mid-west emo and Fugazi (Russell Emerson’s vocal delivery falls right in the middle of Ian Mackaye marching orders and Guy Picciotto’s attitudinal rebel yell. Tyranny’s latest record takes on Naomi Klein’s breakdown of disaster capitalism,The Shock Doctrine, and this time their adaptation is better produced and rich with guitars that convey vulnerability and power all at once. Extra props for this being the only record on Bandcamp tagged Zinn-core.


Sumac — Thorn in the Lion’s Paw (Live)

As much as I’d love an ISIS (the band) reunion, it almost seems unnecessary. Between Old Man Gloom, Zozobra, Mamiffer and now Sumac, the members of the late post-metal vanguards are producing some of the most exciting heavy music in the world. Sumac is the youngest of those projects, having just released The Deal through Profound Lore earlier in the year. This video from one of their first shows ever back in March in Vancouver showcases how utterly gargantuan a three-piece can be. That’s Turner on vocals and guitar, Baptists’ Nick Yacyshyn on skins and Brian Cook of Russian Circles / Botch / These Arms Are Snakes fame on bass. This is the most crushing thing you’ll hear all week.


Chelsea Wolfe: ABYSS album trailer

Your Sargent House Gush of the Week features the first taste from the fifth album of the new Noir Queen. This excerpt is easily the heaviest Wolfe’s ever sounded, and the visuals of a chiaroscuro California show the limitless potential of her cinematic world. Abyss is slated for a summer 2015 release.