Review Summary: A spit in the face and a kick up the behind of modern synth-pop; Light Asylum is a ferociously brilliant debut by the Brooklyn duo.
There’s been a considerable coldwave revival these past few years – bands like Cold Cave who long to usher in the glory days of chilly synthetic music, with a motoric, danceable core underpinning their more bleak surrounding aesthetics. Light Asylum, a Brooklyn 2 piece fronted by the one of the meanest looking front-women the pages of the alternative music press have seen a long time, are part of this stock, but with their eponymous debut, quite literally shout their contemporaries to pieces with Shannon Funchess’ ferocious gothic growl, which sounds as though it could fire spittle as far as the back rows of a fictional audience throughout its 10 blistering electro –pop tracks.
There’s always been something compelling about the extremity of pairing frosty as winter synth shudders and robotic dance beats with rich, human histrionics, right back to the glory days of electro-pop when the bluesy vocals of Alison Moyet and Depeche Mode’s early golden boy Vince Clark were married up to form the refreshing Yazoo, back in the early 80s – but Funchess’ voice is something else. It’s not so romantic and soulful as it is more vicious and punky; gothic and booming, though as she proves at certain times, can also be turned down on the bile-o-meter for a sweeter, more warming change-up, such as on sections of ‘Heart of Dust’. It’s a real uncompromising, un-holstered performance, and is as enthralling and welcomed as it is fierce and frighteningly in yer face.
Almost as stunning is the music crafted by partner in crime, Bruno Coviello. He dips in to fluttering Trans-Europe Express era Kraftwerk on ‘Angel Tongue’; Alternative electro-pop should-be hits, with cuts such as the dramatic and glorious ‘Shallow Tears’ (pounding drums, a beautifully sad stream of synth and colossal vocals team up for a personal song of the year contender); menacing dance-floor steamrollers on ‘Hour Fortress’ and the superbly compulsive ‘IPC’ (in which Funchess spits out the hook “nobody’s insane / nobody’s insane no more” with absolute conviction behind nervous synths), and black as midnight, pulse-fests such as the nihilistic “does it make you wanna kill / at will” screams of “At Will”.
Simply put, Light Asylum as less of a breath of fresh air on the synth revival scene as there are a duo of badass bandits kicking down the door of staleness and screaming, shouting and doing whatever the fu
ck they like. That kind of tenacity and ferociousness is what a scene and its ‘sters’ need sometimes – a bloody good kick up the arse, and so far in 2012, no-one’s boots seem more suited to the task than those of Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello.