Music Reviews


The Burning Circle And Then Dust


The fervent Lycia fans at Silber Records can be thanked (profusely, natch) for this reissue of the classic The Burning Circle And Then Dust – an audio document that captures Lycia changing and metamorphosizing from more free-form atmospherics and ambiance to a poised and baroque outfit, a sort of missing link between Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins and Joy Division’s Atmosphere. Here is this album returned to its original single-album state by Mike Van Porfleet, shorn of some extraneous compilation-bound tracks, closer to his original vision, along with some re-mastering to give the whole affair a fuller, deeper sound.

Up to this point, Lycia had been mostly a Mike Van Portfleet solo project, focusing on the sonic possibilities of pure guitar sinewave bliss and Swans-ish breakers crashing on cliffs. Enter David Galas and Tara Vanflower and the change is immediate and transcendent; a perfect and unconscious marriage of the shoegazing sounds of Lush and Ride tethered to the darkling exotica of the Creatures, World Of Skin and Cocteau Twins. Indeed, Burning Circle holds all the mystery of Dead Can Dance, made even more ethereal and moon-worshipping by a refusal to dabble in the earthier, tribal dance patterns that they embraced; Lycia instead retreated into vast black-glass cathedrals, icy breath leaving thin trails of emotion.

Quite frankly, The Burning Circle and Then Dust is a work of bleak, touching beauty. Near-perfect within its genre, having a whole generation of young darkling bands to follow their droning lead, and brimming over with fin de siecle majesty – like the aptly named “Resigned” a slow, deliberate, heart-rending synth line is repeated into an uncaring void, until mechanical drums crash in, the synths turn into robotic, angelic backing sighs and Van Portfleet’s Lee Dorrian-esque old man’s croak whispers out indiscernible lines. Guitars and electronics melt together into an opaque whole, a deep shade of red, sounds ebb and flow not according to any chordal patters or melodic hooks but rather, building waves of pure feeling, pinioned by spare cavernous bass lines and uncaring drum machines. Verses and choruses? I can’t find them, but I can find gorgeous mood pieces and billowing waves of strangely harmonious guitar effects, disciplined and punished into ornate, mournful chamber music. Vocal tracks often give way to strikingly lyrical (though still compact, no jamming ever, that shit ain’t emotion) instrumentals.

It’s almost too much. More Eno than Eldritch, but where his ambiance was a product of science and theory, this is a more subjective exercise, perhaps some stray alchemy and lovespells, but fuck, this is heady, pure stuff. And when Tara VanFlower finally makes her lead vocal turn in “Nimble,” the transformation is complete.

Beyond essential. Better than love any day. Oh my god, stop fucking around with silly songs, when there’s this…

Silber Records;

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