Music Reviews

Lycia

Compilation Appearances Vol. 1

Projekt

Lycia’s A Day in the Stark Corner (1993) was the first Projekt CD I bought, and is still one of my favorites. Its chill gothic ambience captured perfectly a certain sense of morbid isolation blossoming into the corpse-flower of bitterness that turns even the brightest day into blackest night. I remember being surprised then that Lycia’s frigid synths and shards of icy guitar had emanated from Mike VanPortfleet’s home in Arizona rather than some Antarctic realm closer to Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, and that fact still amazes me eight years later as I listen to this CD of Lycia’s compilation appearances “recorded between 1990 and 1994–the Arizona years” (according to the CD’s subtitle).

Probably the biggest surprise for me on this mostly excellent 70-minute-plus collection was how much of Lycia’s early material falls pretty comfortably into the gothic rock realm, even though I’d always thought of the group as being more ambient in tone. Partly this results from a trick of fate, as VanPortfleet explained in the liner notes to Projekt 100 (on which two of the tracks on this CD first appeared); he had recorded almost a full album’s worth of harsher material under the working title Byzantine, but shelved it “when the initial mixing sessions produced nothing more than uncontrolled mud.” The album that eventually resulted was 1991’s Ionia, which was much more ambient-sounding. Both the tracks here from the Byzantine sessions combine deep, Andrew Eldritch or Carl McCoy-like intoned vocals with heavy beats and noisy, fuzzed-out guitars; “Excade Decade Decada” suffocates you with incredibly dark synth atmospheres and a voice from the crypt begging you to “take this away,” while the hypnotic voice on “Byzantine” intones its almost-subliminal messages in an echoing whisper buried under layer upon layer of distortion.

Given how much I loved A Day in the Stark Corner, it should come as no surprise that I also really enjoyed “Everything Is Cold,” originally recorded during the sessions for that album. A heavy, cold, hammering beat in back mixes with pretty but disturbingly off-key acoustic guitar and VanPortfleet’s characteristically enigmatic lyrics to create a feeling of madness settling softly around your hunched shoulders like a gray, isolating shroud. “The Facade Fades” (from the 1993 compilation Love and Hate) takes a more straight-ahead goth/industrial approach, with slightly cliched but still cool lyrics and a really fine bass line.

All in all, this CD is an excellent collection of Lycia’s early work, essential for their fans, and a great introduction to the group for everyone else.

Projekt, PO Box 9140, Long Island City, NY 11103, http://www.projekt.com


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