Lightning Dust – Spectre (2019) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Lightning Dust – Spectre (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 38:06 minutes | 421 MB | Genre: Indie Pop, Indie Folk, Indie Rock
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front cover | © Western Vinyl

On Spectre, their 4th album as Lightning Dust, Amber Webber and Josh Wells embrace as their sole-focus what was once a side-project, thus crafting their most refined and powerful album to date. After co-founding and touring with Black Mountain for over a decade, the duo departed from the band to further their own longterm creative partnership. Lightning Dust has evolved noticeably with each release, from the spare, dark folk of their self-titled debut, to the synth and drum machine-heavy 2013 album Fantasy. However, the through-line of their discography has been Wells’ deft production tailored perfectly around Webber’s modestly iconic voice which stirred Pitchfork write of their 2009 LP Infinite Light that Webber’s was “one of the fiercest, most stirring vocal performances of any release this year.” In this sense the tracks on Spectre echo the spirits of quintessential rock vocalists like Grace Slick and Beth Gibbons, throughout a collection of songs that range from expertly sculpted folk-rock ear candy, to sparse Judee Sill-esque ballads consisting of little more than piano and voice. Written during the devastating forest fires that filled her hometown of Vancouver with smoke and a sense of apocalyptic doom, album opener “Devoted To” captures Webber’s resilience and determination to reestablish her creative independence as she sings “I will find my way back in even if I never sleep… Gotta find my way back in, it’s all that I believe.” Propulsive rocker “Run Away” is an observation of the human need for change. Amber explains, “It was written in response to friends leaving their soul crushing jobs. I wanted to write a song that flip-flopped between the glorious freedom they felt upon leaving, and moments of despair that came afterward.” Shining an optimistic light on her departure from Black Mountain on the anthemic “When It Rains” Webber sings “Let’s celebrate what we’ve done so far instead of what comes next always ripping at our hearts – it ruins.” The assuring shuffle of “Pretty Picture”, on which Stephen Malkmus shreds, is followed by the booming slacker anthem “Competitive Depression” which features vocals by Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. Spectre’s dramat- ic two-part closer “3am/100 Degrees” brings the album full-circle with a final statement about delusions that manifest in strife, exemplified by the song’s final lines “replaying what’s behind, made us all scared when nothing was there.” 2018 was a whirlwind of new beginning for Webber – going back to school and even trying out a new career. In the end these detours gave her the chance to step back and explore what parts of music were important to protect. “It made me realize that art and music are still my light.” She goes on to explain, “Spectre is my journey. It’s for all the women warriors that have been battling throughout life looking for a place to express themselves that feels inclusive and inspiring. It’s about finding yourself when no one is paying attention and inventing a new way of creating that feels honest and sincere. I truly feel that women, especially as we get older are underrepresented. That was truly the driving force to creating this album.”

Lightning Dust’s excellent 2013 album Fantasy marked a shift for the Vancouver duo, moving from the subdued folky tones of their earliest work to embrace dark, synthy pop. The band began as a side project of founding Black Mountain members Amber Webber and Joshua Wells, foiling their main band’s brawny guitar rock with moodier material. Fourth album Spectre comes after a six-year interim where Webber and Wells parted ways with Black Mountain to focus on Lightning Dust full time. Still leaning heavily on vintage synth sounds and brooding moods, the band lets go of the pop formula that informed Fantasy for a more multi-dimensional approach to the album’s songcraft. Webber’s stunning vocals are even more central to these songs than before, reminiscent at various moments of the stark power of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, the whispery intrigue of Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan, and Stevie Nicks’ haunting elegance. Album opener “Devoted To” is a perfect storm of the band’s powers. It moves from a spooky intro of synths into a tense but dynamic groove. One part horror movie soundtrack, one part existential crisis, the song pairs dour acoustic guitars and some of Webber’s witchiest vocals for an album highlight. Much of the album falls in line with this chilly, autumnal mood, songs like “Joanna,” and “Run Away” blending electronic and organic instruments as a backdrop for Webber’s plaintive, reaching self-harmonizing. Even when Spectre strips down the instrumentation to just piano and vocals, as with the floating “More” and “Inglorious Flu,” the ominous atmosphere of the record is still thick. Lightning Dust albums always explore various styles, and the back half of Spectre includes the explosive psychedelic guitar chug of “Competitive Depression,” the swaying Cat Power-esque “A Pretty Picture,” and sprawling, urgent album closer “3AM/100 Degrees.” More dense, driven, and complexly rendered than anything else in the band’s catalog, Spectre expands on the strongest moments of Lightning Dust’s ever-shifting muse. The production, songwriting, and performances all reach new levels of curiosity and unpredictable moves, making it some of the band’s most captivating work. ~ Fred Thomas


01. Devoted To
02. Run Away
03. Led Astray
04. Inglorious Flu
05. When It Rains
06. Joanna
07. More
08. A Pretty Picture feat. Stephen Malkmus
09. Competitive Depression feat. Dan Bejar
10. 3AM / 100 Degrees