July 30, 2004

All Green Lights "Candida Pax"

If there's been one thing I've learned over the past three years, it's that the phrase 'don't judge a book by its cover' is difficult. After all, are covers not designed to draw in an audience? It's certainly true with music. If a record has a Star of David and dripping red images on black, you can pretty safely assume that the record inside isn't going to sound a thing like Belle & Sebastian. I was a bit hesitant about Candida Pax, the debut release by All Green Lights. With its violent, schitzophrenic artwork, I was expecting something that sounds really heavy, messy and noisy, something that you might hear on GSL or Load. Having seen record designs like this in the past, I felt pretty sure that the music inside was going to be nothing short of blasting noise.

Boy, was I wrong!

All Green Lights is the project of Benjamin Bettinson, a one-man tour-de-force who records by himself at home and with the aid of his computer. He doesn't suffer for it, either. Though I was prepared for a violent musical confrontation, what's found on Candida Pax is anything but--peacefuly instrumentals that are mixed with a combination of soothing acoustic guitar and gentle pulsating beats. This is a most interesting combination of instruments, and Bettinson has a vision that's unique, making for a compelling and always pleasant listen. The opening epic, the four-song "Remember This" suite--a mixture of Warp-like beats and slightly countrified guitars combined with Cocteau Twins-like guitar riffs and the occasional harmonica--sets the standard for the rest of Candida Pax.

The only problem, though, is that occasionally the music feels too synthetic. Throwing down beats is great, but when said beats and rhythms are cliched, it sounds like he just took the preprogrammed rhythms of a Casio and threw down some guitar and keyboard riffs over them. (Which, of course, is probably what he did.) The lone vocal track, "Paint A Picture," seems oddly out of place as well. "Houdini" uses the samples of a child talking and laughing, and while I'm sure it's special to him, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Luckily, these weaker moments are few and far between, and they don't overwhelm the rest of the album.

Still, I'm not too worried about the bad parts--that's the joy of programmable CD players. There's plenty of beauty to be found on Candida Pax, and the strengths of songs like "Remember This," "White Moon" and the title track are more than enough to keep me coming back again. This is a surprisingly wonderful little record, and with a little work on the more cliched moments, if Bettinson keeps it up, he's going to find himself on many a 'bands to watch' list.

I know this because he's just wound up on mine.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://morninglightrecords.com/allgreenlights
Label Website: http://www.morninglightrecords.com

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