Lycia: The Burning Circle and the Dust (Silber Media, 2006)
Silber Records has released their second installment in the re-release of Lycia’s catalog. The Burning Circle and Then Dust, originally released in 1995 as a double album, has been released in 2006 as a single album, returning the disc to the original vision of Mike VanPortfleet. This band’s long career ended in 1999, when recording sessions unraveled. As Silber continues to re-release their albums, the progression and change of their sound will become more and more obvious.
“A Presence in the Woods” starts of this 18 track disc with dark walls of sound and mid-tempo drums that are stripped down and serve to move the track through the ethereal guitar. VanPortfleet provides vox on this track. His vocals are breathy and very gothic. For me, they are a bit over the top. “Wandering Soul” begins with Slowdive style walls of sound and features VanPortfleet in a less dramatic light. This is a darkwave track pulses along, with gloomy singing and minor key walls of sound. The instrumentation is beautiful and lush. “The Dust Settles (Part 1)” is a bit of an interlude that is instrumental warbles into both speakers, painting ethereal landscapes. This leads into “Sleepless,” which has BanPortfleet at the vocal helm again as his voice sits amidst the swirling guitars. The track is slow tempo, giving it an almost sluggish feel, pulling the listener in. This is followed by “The Dust Settles (Part 2)” which gives the previous track’s music a more powerful mix, with more guitars and bass in the mix.
“The Return of Nothing” begins with pumping drums and is joined by bass and synth voices that float around. Again VanPortfleet sings in that over the top, posturing sort of gothic way. I guess it’s a style that I don’t particularly care for and don’t hear much anymore. The music is beautiful, as it is throughout the entire disc, I just wish that the vocals were absent on the majority of the songs. “The Dust Settles (Part 3)” is another great interlude. Guitars soar as the last interlude sets up the listener for the rest of the album. This is the longest of the three and is a wonderful instrumental piece. “Pray” begins with an eighties feel, with toms beating and OMD style keys mixed with great guitar work. VanPortfleet sings in a fashion that harkens back to My Bloody Valentine. The posturing is gone and he is just allowing his voice to come through, which is fantastic. This track really blows me away and I wish the rest of the disc was on this level.
“On the Horizon” has acoustic guitar over soaring notes sitting on percussion and flowing drones. This is a lush instrumental that also is what I would have loved from the rest of the previous tracks. “Where Has All the Time Gone” is a slow tempo tune that has wonderful vocals again. Sounding like the frontman to the Psychedelic Furs, VanPortfleet brings a familiar nostalgia in the mix of Slowdive style guitars. “Silence and Distance” has an ominous feel to it, bring in darker elements, but this is also one of the instrumentals that I really like on this disc. Lycia has the ability to communicate so much emotively through simply leaving words out and allowing their music to speak for itself. “Nine Hours Later” is another favorite track of mine. Boarding on a danceable darkwave, this track has its mix of pumping drums ala New Order with shoegaze guitars. Sixteen tracks into the disc, Tara VanFlower finally makes an appearance. Her angelic vocals echo amidst layers and layers of keys and piano. This song is beautiful and VanFlower makes it deep and airy. “Resigned” is a minimalistic ambient piece that is so gorgeous. Its melancholy soundscape is impressive in its simplicity. This explodes into a louder rendition with the vox deep in the mix. “Surrender” is approximately the same track as “Resigned” with VanFlower adding her ethereal vocals to the mix, which is turned up and more up front in the this final track.
For me, this album was a bit imbalanced, and I mean a bit. I like it for the most part. I only have a few things that would have made the experience much better. VanFlower would have brought something to the many of songs that VanPortfleet seemed to lack. Also, the front of the disc is far weaker then the second two-thirds. That said, this disc is far better and much more mature than Estrella.