Lycia
Cold
1997/2007
B



lycia don't pussyfoot around. While other bands seem to spend half their time hiding the eyeliner and crimping tongs, or denying they're goths three times before the bat squeaks, Mike VanPortfleet and Tara Vanflower are quite happy to do photoshoots dressed as zombie farmhands. So when the braaaains-craving pair release an album called Cold you know to opt for the pair of headphones with the fuzzy earmuff covers, because from chilly cavern to icicle-tipped peak it's going to be a frostbitten trip.

This is actually a reissued outing for the record; originally released in a glut of Lycian creativity which also saw them churn out a double album and the splendidly bleak A Day in the Stark Corner, all within a two year period. VanPortfleet has since been on a mountain expedition to relocate the snow-hole he buried the album in and dug it out for a spot of remastering (not that any audio-resuscitation was desperately needed). Meanwhile, the chaps at Silber Records have taken up the distribution cause (this is now the fifth in their Lycia series) and added an enigmatically misty-blurry new cover, perhaps to fool people into thinking they may need an eye exam. Such trickery is the devil's work.

The album finds our introspective twosome shying away from earlier forays with guitars and eerie four-track recordings, and instead harnessing sumptuous waves of droning electronics. These abundant layers are like a frozen waterfall, offering the beauty of a captured cascade—trapped forever in a single moment. Glorious, yes, but a barrier which keeps listeners at a distance, preventing the penetration of this picturesque wall. Inside are the outlines of perfectly preserved water sirens, their mouths open, eternally delivering a wailing harmony. Untouchable. Unknowable. Emotional depth remains tantalizingly out of reach, deflected by a beguiling surface sheen.

Yet to shatter these icy constructs would destroy the wintery spell. The trance-like state of yearning for what lies beneath. The search for an elusive flower beneath the permafrost. Both the inner core and outer expression serve a purpose, catching mind and ear respectively. Each wrapped within pounding, towering keys and the kind of snare reverb Andrew Eldritch would be proud of. If he viewed darkwave acts with anything other than a disdainful sense of loathing, that is.

All of this does, however, demand the right frame of mind—and even then some stretches of tundra do rather drag to the horizon. Especially "Polaris," which is pretty much seven minutes of the duo going "la laaa laa" to varying degrees. Such musical attrition may even batter down the defenses of an unprepared ear, rather like the actual spread of cold itself. Eventually you'll feel like a family of happy campers caught out by a deadly flurry. The gas stove has gone out, limbs have long since gone numb and the next gentle doze could invite the fatal fingers of the reaper. Just stay awake little Timmy ... just stay awake ... and you may glimpse the morning sun.



Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2007-09-21
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