Lycia is the kind of band who only gained minor cult success, yet consistently revamped the sounds and ideas of the darkwave/ethereal genre. Cited as being major influences on people like Trent Reznor and Peter Steele, you’d think the band would get more recognition, but oh well, they’ve remained another hidden gem. For the first few records, Lycia consisted of only Mike Van Portfleet (this being one of them), and the general sound is a cathedral-esque blend of classically tinged synthetics, electric, fuzzy guitars, a slow drum machine, and whispered, indiscernible vocals. The production effectively complements this with a very desolate, hollow, and echoey tone, I mean like reverb up to 11. Though Fields of the Nephilim was a major foundation for the genre, Lycia without question picked up the torch and never looked back. Now the present form of darkwave and gothic music is derivative, to put it politely. Do not expect trivial, one-note synths for two hours, this is gothic in the renaissance sense in that it creates a soaring mood between ultimate salvation and inevitable punishment…not to mention this record in particular was completed on a mere four-track.
The immediate comparison you may make while listening to the first song is a vast, post-apocalypse atmosphere. The drums simply pound away to a synth breeze as the guitar crafts its slow, melancholic melody. Vocally, Mike sticks to a subtle, echoey whisper, but to break the monotony that had potential to cause there’s plenty of instrumentals scattered through the record. On Pygmallion, you may happily notice a major King Crimson influence in the instrumental passages. Another interesting influence may be Current 93 pertaining to the acoustics, granted they are way more complex than anything Current 93 composed.
A major strength of this record is that its unique soundscapes can pull you inside your own ether, and you may stay there for a whole song, or even the whole record, but you never lose connection with the music, completely separating this band from the majority of darkwave/ethereal bands. A perfect example is Wide Open Spaces. It opens with dragging synths that build upon themselves, the drums fading in and out…then before you know it a soft explosion breaks the calm and a distorted lead guitar paints its chaotic canvas to add the yin to the yang.
Lyrically, there isn’t much you can make out but when you do, it hits you hard (see The Morning Breaks So Cold and Gray). This is another one of the pieces that makes this album a true album. There is, more or less, a singular theme that evolves and revolves around a handful of intertwining moods and sounds, and it doesn’t get repetitive if you’re into that kind of thing. The album ranges from songs like Wide Open Spaces, to songs like the subtly evil Remnants and the Ruins, to the absolutely decadent Sorrow Is Her Name. They each seem to have their own sort of story if you really get into it.
If you aren’t into ambient or darkwave, this will probably not change your mind. A Day in the Stark Corner's strengths lay in the fact that is it mainly the creation of one man's vision. It's intensely personal but fulfillingly listenable all at once, as if you lifted a heavy curtain from a view you may have seen but never truly looked at before. There may be depression or there may be annihilation, but ultimately you are there discovering it all with Mike assuming the role of your own personal, somber Charon.
good review. you should develop more on the ideas of writing about an album's themes and its ability to communicate clearly, as opposed to describing the songs. not that you're bad at doing that, it just doesn't lead one to want to listen to an album. hearing about how the music forms a theme and then subsequently manipulates it via the composition gives me an idea of the album's artistic merits. as a contrast, one wouldn't describe a great painting by saying, "well, the painter used some red here, and some shadows over there, and you'll notice this character's eyes have three colors which is really unique!"
but you seem to understand that. which means a yes vote from me
also, i'll take that paycheck nowThis Message Edited On 09.26.08
like i said, there's nothing bad about the way you describe songs here. they're pretty accurate. my point was that describing the way songs sound, isn't really pertinent to the purpose of a review. a lot of people here would disagree with me on this, seeing as 90% of reviews describe songs in such mechanistic language as "then there's a drum roll, then a few chord changes, bla bla bla". but all that does is describe it - it doesn't really tell us anything about it. in other words, writing that kind of information in a review gives the reader absolutely no information he wouldn't be able to receive himself. it's not even the kind of information he could use to form an opinion about the music's quality. like i pointed out, think of it as a painting - someone giving a "review" of the mona lisa wouldn't spend much time saying what colors occur where and in what tone. anyone can see that for themselves. instead, he would tell you how the colors and shadings relate to each other as a whole - he talks about the painting, not the technical details
and describing a song here or there is fine if it's with a purpose. like when you mentioned "The Morning Breaks..." it was with a purpose; you did so in order to illustrate a point about the album's lyrical value. not just to say 'here's what happens in this song.'
if you ask me, the review's best moment is where you said "...this is gothic in the renaissance sense in that it creates a soaring mood between ultimate salvation and inevitable punishment..." because that actually gives the reader an idea of where this album stands as a work of art and how it might best be approached.
it's also generally a good idea, when making statements like "A major strength of this record is that its unique soundscapes can pull you inside your own ether, and you may stay there for a whole song, or even the whole record, but you never lose connection with the music," to explain exactly how/why this is true. being familiar with basic musical theory helps, but it's not entirely necessary. and in addition to detailing why the music has this capability, go on to explain how that capability is applied to create an effect/message, and finally, how it's delivered
that's good advice but it's bad too. it's a very generalized rhetorical question - "what does it sound like" could be referring to anything. mood, production, communicativeness, bla bla bla
yeah, i'm saying that more or less. and you did do it in this review - not a whole lot, but that's still a lot more than most people here do. just work more on that as you keep writing and, over time, you'll both become a better writer *and* gain greater appreciation of good music. the two seem to occur in symbiosis
something I ll always yearn to listen more , the three main members of this band also got some side projects( much more personal and experimental than what you hear in Lycia ) and are worth listening or must-listen : mike vanportfleet( Beyond The Horizon Line), tara vanflower (This womb like liquid honey & my little fire-filled heart) and the david galas( the cataclysm ) , there s another album by Tara vanflower which is more folk-oriented and I really happened to listen to that accidentally , and imediately became part of my music-life : Black Happy Day (2006) In The Garden of Ghostflowers ....
thanks for reviewing such dark , melancholic masterpiece