May 25, 2005

Lycia "Estrella"

The first time I heard Lycia, it was on a free sampler I received from Projekt, perhaps the premier darkwave/goth label of the 1990s, and perhaps the only label that was making a very serious attempt at following in the footsteps of esteemed British label 4AD. I don't remember what Lycia's song was, but I do remember that they sounded quite different than their labelmates, and that unlike other bands, they really didn't seem concerned about fashion or image, and the song sounded more like Aphex Twin than The Cure or This Mortal Coil. I thought their song was rather stunning and beautiful, but admittedly, I never did follow through.

Listening to the recently-reissued , the band's final album (and the first release in a Lycia reissue program), it's quite clear that Lycia was a different sort of band. The duo of Mark VanPortfleet and Tara VanFlower combined their strengths to make music that was haunting, beautiful and stunning, and in this goal, they were quite successful. Estrella found the band at a creative high, and the result was a record that lured the listener and took them into other realms of aural ecstacy. From the tribal "Tongues" to the Harold Budd-like "Clouds in the Southern Sky" and from the transcendent bliss of "Estrella" to the melancholy "The Kite," Lycia exploited the term "atmospheric" to the hilt--and the result was heavenly. Comparisons to The Cocteau Twins were and are inevitable, and while VanFlower's voice never quite reached to Liz Frasier's vocal heights--that's an impossible goal, anyway--her voice, in combination with VanPortfleet's stunning Robin Guthrie-inspired accompaniment, certainly justfied the comparison.

If you're not familiar with Lycia, Estrella is as excellent a starting point as you could find, because this record's beauty is a perfection that most bands could only dream of obtaining. Hopefully the forthcoming reissue series will illuminate this gorgeous darkwave band, and deservedly so.

--Joseph Kyle

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