May 01, 2006
Lycia "The Burning Circle and Then Dust"
I was never a goth. Never could go for it; the pretension and the fashion aspect just didn't really make much sense. Plus, I never was cool enough to look like the ungrateful dead, as make-up just never was my style. But the music--some of it was impossible to resist, especially those that had elements of the esteemed 4AD label, or had a shoegazing/classical influence. Those artists, I couldn't resist.
Lycia was one of those bands I kind of liked, but never really explored. I had friends who raved about their music, and I could understand why. Their sound was heavily reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins, but made by people who knew they couldn't be the Cocteau Twins. When you know you're not the band you love, you'll break free from the trap of imitators. Friends raved about their double disc opus The Burning Circle and Then Dust, saying it was a massive undertaking that was downright brilliant and utterly beautiful. Personally, I thought it was top-heavy.
Apparently, after ten years, so too did Lycia mastermind Mike VanPortfleet. As part of his continuing reissue series with Silber Media, he cleaned up this 1995 release, pairing it down to one disc and remastering it. Don't worry; you really won't miss songs like "Facade Fades" and "August, Pt. 1 and 2." Instead, what you'll find is a concise, bold darkwave album that's packed with mood, atmosphere, and melancholy. Yes, there's a hint of 4AD style throughout, but it doesn't overwhelm the music. (After all, for a time, Projekt seemed likely to be the next 4AD.) At eighteen tracks and nearly eighty minutes, The Burning Circle and Then Dust is still a hefty record, but there are plenty of jewels to be found. From the beginning notes of "A Presence in the Woods," it's obvious that the next hour and seventeen minutes will be quite disturbing. But you shouldn't fear it; after all, songs like "Silence then Distance" and "Anywhere But Home" and "On the Horizon" are downright gorgeous. VanPortfleet sings with a haunting, detatched voice, which highlights the bright, shimmering sheets of guitar love and pulsing bass that fills out these dark, moody numbers.
The two highlights are the wistful, sad "Where Has All the Time Gone," a gorgeous, reflective number that reminds me of The Death Of Cool-era Kitchens of Distinction, and "Pray," which is a gorgeous Britpop-flavored track that, at the time, should have given Lush and Pale Saints some stiff competition.
The Burning Circle and Then Dust was a grand statement, and it's still a grand statement. If you like your music dark and heavy and sad and melodic, then this record is made for you.
Listen To: "The Last Day"