The last time we heard Amber Webber and Joshua Wells, the duo making up Lightning Dust, was on Black Mountain’s 2008 release In the Future. The Zeppelin bombast is toned down considerably between the two bands as Lightning Dust is stripped down to its barest elements, however that love for 70's keyboards and hazy vocals still permeates through on their newest release, Infinite Light. This sophomore effort also distinguishes itself from the bands moody self titled debut as it brightens up a bit. There are a few up-tempo rockers in the mix of folk-rock ballads that either spice up the proceedings or fall flat entirely. This is essentially an album of hits and misses, but luckily the hits are of greater number than the misses.
Opener, and album highlight, “Antonia Jane” pairs lightly strummed guitars, dusty organs, tinkling piano and a pulsing rhythm section with a beautiful vocal melody that is simultaneously familiar and haunting. The result is a rich song of yearning for a love just out of reach as Webber cries, “To break a million hearts / til she makes it through” with a chorus of, “Someday soon”. The problem for the rest of the album is that “Antonia Jane” is the best thing on it. Not to say the rest of the album is any bad, but nothing quite scales the heights of the opener. The “la-di-da” refrain at the end of the majestic “History” comes closest, followed closely by pretty and epic closer, “Take It Home”. Still, neither of these songs are cut of the same cloth as “Antonia Jane” which is somewhat of a pity.
The album is best when it plays to the strengths of the duo. What they do best are simple and somewhat sparse arrangements that showcase Webber’s strange but beautiful vocals. Like gorgeous ballad, “Waiting on the Sun to Rise” where lonely guitar and piano figures are met with the barest of percussion (essentially a hi-hat). Alternately, the experiments, like the country-tinged ballad “Honest Man” which features vocal work from Wells, seem to fall flat. They create little interest but to contrast the better parts of the album. Not all fail, as the upbeat, electro-rock of “I Knew” injects a welcome bit of adrenaline to the otherwise low-key album. But immediately following that is another up-tempo song in “The Times” which despite the added flavour of congo drums, yields little result. By the time “Dreamer” comes around with its stately violin and snare drum march, the listener is thankful to be back in Lightning Dust’s most comfortable territory.
The hits outnumber the misses on what is overall a solid sophomore effort by Lightning Dust. While Black Mountain’s stoner-rock fan base may not be satisfied with the more simple blend of retro folk-rock, those who have enjoyed recent releases by Camera Obscura and even Bat for Lashes will find something to like on Infinite Light. It’s far from ground breaking or a masterpiece, but for all its flaws it still maintains a strong attraction to its haunting vocal passages and reverb heavy keyboard flourishes. At the very least it resides on my list of albums to dig up when I don’t know what to listen to. It will never find consistent rotation for a long period of time after its release, but it will be there in a pinch, when I’m looking for something just to chill out to.