Lightfoils: Hierarchy (Saint Marie Records, 2014)

Lightfoils: Hierarchy (Saint Marie Records, 2014)

by Jason

Lightfoils formed in 2010 and is comprised of Neil Yodnane (guitar), Zeeshan Abbasi (guitar), Jane Zabeth (vocals), Cory Osborne (bass) and John Rungger (drums). Lightfoils produces a dreamy and hazy brand of shoegaze and dream-pop. The band hails from Chicago, Illinois, where there seems to be a bustling shoegaze scene. Hierarchy is the band’s first full-length and was released in 2014 on Saint Marie Records. The album is 10 tracks and the band shines from the first note to the last.

“Polar Waves” sets the tone for the album with dreamy guitars and Zabeth’s mesmerizing vocals set back in the mix. She utilizes her vocals primarily as another instrument, singing while mixed deep into the tracks. It’s a wonderful use of the vocals and really puts emphasis on the emotive levels of the music, giving the compositions a soaring, other-worldly feel. As “Polar Waves” moves forward, there is a build that erupts into spacey walls of sound reaching beautiful heights. A fantastic opener to a great album. “Last One” begins with pounding drums and Osborne’s brilliant bass work. The guitars come into the mix with a bit of feedback and then they move off onto a spacey soundscape. They are amorphous and ethereal with Zabeth’s beautiful voice floating in their midst. The walls of sound build and the guitars have this wonderful tone that almost seems distant in both speakers. Then the guitars once again allow the bass and drums to come more to the fore while they screech and wail until the track almost fades.

“Addict” is manic, beginning with feedback guitars and then highly energetic bass and drum burst out of the speaker. The guitars then begin to build walls of sound as they undulate with reverbed-out chorus and fuzzy distortions. “Diastolic” begins with a slightly trip-hop beat and, again, Osborne’s great bass work. The bass line here is distinct and up front. The guitars begin an enchanting rhythm as they rise into the mix and create swirling, hazy clouds of sound. Yodnane and Abbasi have these brilliant melodies that play off one another throughout most of the tracks and their tones are just gorgeous. The bridge in this piece is particularly hypnotic and almost drone-like with huge, cloudy walls of sound and Zabeth’s vocals creating a wonderful layer of spaciness. Rungger is an exceptional drummer as well, providing accents to increase or decrease the layers throughout, going from open high-hat to closed or putting a crash into particular sections.

“Mock Sun” begins with only a bass line playing a wonderful melody. Guitars come into the right speaker as they warble into a fuzzy undulating haze. The full band joins eventually and then they breathe, giving Zabeth space for her vocals. The guitar phrasing choices here are subtle but beautiful as they contrast with the larger distorted soundscapes. At about 3:46, “Mock Sun” goes into drone mode with a deep fuzzed out ambience playing alongside subtle bright guitar notes recessed into the mix. I find this moment in the entirety of the album to be wonderful and brilliant, moving from structure to an anti-structure. The drone flows without pause into “Passage” which begins with jangly guitars, a mid-tempo beat, and dreamy vocals. The use of stereo on this track is well done, with guitars playing phrases that echo in one speaker than in the other. It makes the experience immersive and expressive. Further, the use of the wah pedal, while minimal, give the guitars this special different feel in a few places. Yodnane and Abbasi really shine here.

“(untitled 1)” is filled with dreamy synths and washed out drones. Zabeth’s voice floats along with the current here and the soundscape is introspective and contemplative. The dronescape leads directly into “alovetodestroy” without pause with a guitar strumming in the right speaker and then bright, spacey guitars erupting into both. The drums and bass on this composition are energetic and complex. They brilliantly threaten to overtake the entire composition as Zabeth sings out under their sway. Osborne and Rungger are a lethal combination here and it’s glorious. “Hideaway” returns to the dreamy patience set out by “Polar Waves” as the beat sways and the guitars glisten. Yodnane and Abbasi create a spacey floor for the track with these understated melodic lines moving in and out of the haze. “Alovetodestroy” builds into a beautiful chorus with energetic drums and driving bass. The finale on Hierarchy is “(untitled 2)”, another drone piece, but this one is less reserved, with soaring, bright tones and vocals within the soundscape. It slowly moves the listener into silence as “(untitled 2)” fades and the brilliance of Hierarchy ends.

Lightfoils’ first full-length is impressive. Hierarchy moves from dreamy shoegaze walls of sound to ambient moments that experiments with tone and texture. Yodnane and Abbasi are brilliant guitarists who create subtle, complex variations in their reverbed walls of sound. Osborne and Rungger are a powerful rhythm section, bringing both intricate and moving pieces to the composition. Zabeth’s vocals are memorizing and hypnotic. On Hierarchy, Lightfoils creates a hazy dreamscape that both embraces and moves beyond the conventions of shoegaze by utilizing the creative combination of these five superb musicians.


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