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Lightning Dust - Lightning Dust 2007 Black Mountain torrent
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For those half-to-fully-baked music fans who gloriously tripped on Mr. Stephen McBean's wild retro-rock ride, Black Mountain, don't go expecting a similar buzz from sobering side project Lightning Dust. Sure, they sound like they're named after a volatile drug combination (PCP and pop rocks?), but as Lightning Dust, Black Mountaineers Amber Webber and Joshua Wells seek better living through histrionics, not chemistry. Fortunately, they didn't also kick their awesomely nasty late 60s/early 70s rock habit, making their self-titled debut just as potent a blast from the past as their full-time band.
Webber's dour vocals attracted some criticism on Black Mountain, and in the context of that free-wheelin' album, the gripes are somewhat fair. However, with opening track "Listening On", Webber and Wells make no bones about the pall cast over their new incarnation. Like nearly every track on the LP, you can count the total instrument and vocal parts on one hand, a compositional illusion that seems to catapult Webber's stark quivering wails out of your speakers. Even ghostlier, the absence of percussion and other auxiliary touches helps to create ephemeral melodies that materialize briefly, only to vanish at the delicate touch of an organ key.
As sparse as the duo's toolbox appears, their album has a pronounced dramatic landscape of suspenseful highs and tranquilized lows, thanks both to Webber's powerful emoting and Wells' ivory-tickling flair. "Castles and Caves", the album's five-and-a-half minute centerpiece, consists only of piano, vocals and a brief cello part, but when those left-hand keys are pounded during the final chorus, they pack the gravitas of a full-blown orchestra. It doesn't hurt that the piano riff lifts King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King", though, as so many Black Mountain reviews point out in nauseating detail, these guys clearly aren't afraid of walking the line between artistic gesturing and flat-out mimicry.
However, while very transparent influences sometimes hamper Black Mountain's music, Lightning Dust racks up a much smaller tab borrowing classic rock ideas. Instead, sheer paucity, a typical symptom of side projects, plagues the duo. With ten tracks clocking just over a half-hour, the debut whets the palette but fails to satiate the stomach, instead leaving us with brief, majestic tracks that hint at something more epic. Although catchy, haunting three-minute howls like "Highway" or "Breathe" come as second nature to the duo, their attempts at curveballs and changeups miss the mark, as drab hoedown "Wind Me Up" and gooey FM ballad "When You Go" respectively show. Still, when these two stick to their comfort zone, they make magic happen, proving Lightning Dust to be another crag on Black Mountain worth scaling.
Side projects like Lightning Dust are an interesting little paradox. For listeners, they strengthen bonds to larger, well-established parent projects, yet for musicians, they often give those bonds a rest — if only for a little while.
In the case of songwriters Amber Webber and Joshua Wells, such a breather came in the hot, coastal summer of last year. Following some downtime with retro-rock outfit Black Mountain — where Wells plays the role of drummer and Webber, backing vocalist — the Vancouver couple set out to start a project of their own.
“Based on the way we started playing together, we wanted to do something that was sparse and minimal, and with a lot of space around it,” Wells explains. “We also wanted something more dramatic or theatrical, rather than a band or rock-n-roll aesthetic.”
And on their self-titled Jagjagwuar debut, the duo has definitely taken this subdued, bare-bones approach to heart. Lightning Dust’s album slowly creeps by with piano figures, vintage synths and softly strummed guitars, rarely breaking out a drum beat or much of anything that could be considered rockin’. Overall, to Wells, the album possesses a very wintry quality, sounding like “something winter would create” — not the heat-drenched summer.
However, with Webber’s strong, wavering voice floating above this airy backdrop, the album sounds far from empty. Like in Black Mountain, her style brings an ethereal and otherworldly element to the project, packing Lightning Dust with a hefty emotional jab — not the same as Black Mountain’s powering uppercut, but a punch nonetheless.
And as dark as this all may sound, Wells is clear to point out point out that he doesn’t necessarily consider Lightning Dust’s album to be a “gloomy” one. “I’d say it’s more a record of exaggerated emotions, whether it’s a high sort of feeling or a low one,” he says. “And really, it’s more about melodrama than just feeling gloomy.”
Black Mountain -- Amber Webber's vocals are occasionally indistinguishable from Chan Marshall's. Joshua Wells provides sparse instrumental accompaniment (fans of Songs:Ohia's Ghost Tropic take note!), usually some form of keyboards and/or guitars. Webber is no mere imitator tho, with a curious signature "flutter" in her voice reminiscent of (tho less quirky than) Scout Niblet or even (& still less quirky than) Joanna Newsom. Tracks 1 & 2 really present the formula best. And it all is a bit formulaic: choose from among the other tracks based on your tempo and instrumental preferences. Track 3 is atypically bright and bouncy (with thin drums and tambourine), and track 10 brings in a full backup band, with the drum kit thumping out a nice C&W waltz time and thus making it the most "traditional" track here. Tho if you have the time and it's a dark night in your single-candle-lit room, go for Track 7: it's clearly this recording's emotional centerpiece.
- amazon.com consummer
Artist: Lightning Dust
Album: Lightning Dust
Date Of Release: June 2007
Genre: Bedsit, Indie Folk, Anti-folk
Bitrate: VBR --alt-preset extreme