Welcome to our first collaborative review! This will be a new section where we have several contributors give their thoughts on the first listen of a new album. This week, we focus on the new album from Lilac Shadows, No Dark/No Light, which drops today on DiggUp Tapes.
Notes from my pre-knowledge of No Dark/ No Light:
Lilac Shadows: Durham based dreamy/stormy psych quartet led Sam Logan (vocals, guitars, lyrics, formally of the Huguenots, T0W3RS).
Logan self-recorded and then produced the album with Nathan Price (of the Lollipops and mastermind of DiggUp Tapes).
Mixed at the Fideltorium in Kernersville (Wilco, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, …), mastered by Nick Petersen (every local record ever).
Notable contributors: Nathan Price, Derek Torres (T0W3RS), Zach Oden (Annuals, Wool), Karen Blanco (formerly of T0W3RS), Jacki Huntington (See Gulls), and John Wollaber (Jenny Besetzt). Also Rachel Rollins and Mark Paulson (Bowerbirds) provided the string arrangements.
First Lilac Shadows release: the Drone demo in March 2011 (DiggUp Tapes).
Last Lilac Shadows release: All Tomorrow’s Parties in November 2012 (DiggUp Tapes).
Notes from my first listen of No Dark/ No Light:
OCCIDENTAL OCEANS opens with a pastel wash of warm synths. A gentle transmission. Swirls into a chorus of spinning “ahhs.” “You’re left with only one alternative to fill your lungs and pretend you know how to swim.” Sparse remote twinklings are interrupted with the driving bass in the brilliant fuck pop of TUNNELS,which at one point features dueling guitars. TSUNAMI indolently blooms into beach rock with a steady pace bass and a screaming bridge. INACTIVISION begins with a stretching low bass and quickly breaks into a creepy spaceship slinging back and forth out of a shoe-gaze-psyche-out scuzzle. Nightmare. Violent pleading. “Tell me what you wanted. Tell me I was wanted. And I’ll believe it’s true. Tell me ‘I am sorry.’ Tell me not to worry. And I’ll believe in you.” HONEYCOMBS is a dizzy dream pop with bouncing drums and merging, flowing vocals. FEVER PITCH starts with bubbling Styrofoam sounds but it slowly builds into a desert trek that features some otherworldly hot guitar atmosphere. NO DARK/NO LIGHT: spindly guitar and languid strings culminate in making a pretty strange magic ballad. DRONE flutters into the mantra of “Nobody’s waiting for you to walk through that door.” Its repetition is slashed by striking passionate strings. Haunting, yearning, that calms to end the record in a fading hush.
Assessment of No Dark/ No Light:
It’s a clean, cohesive album that naturally pours out and into each subsequent track. There’s innate sadness but also innate hope within these sounds, enough so that listening to it is a dark and beautiful journey. This is more than synth psych pop. It’s sprawling, and it doesn’t need to end.
Lilac Shadows is back and No Dark/No Light demands your attention. The full-length release by the group hangs on tight to the familiar sound that we know and love, while reaching out into a spacey new, psychedelic landscape. From start to finish, track by track, No Dark/No Light continually brings you into and out of a trance-like state with layers of spacey synth leading into punchy, in your face guitar and bass lines. The album plays like one that will transition to the stage well, and I gotta say that I’m pretty pumped about seeing these songs live. Go ahead and expect to experience these songs in a sweaty, screaming, shoulder-to-shoulder, crowd of people dancing their asses off (and if that’s not what you want, stay home because you haven’t earned this show yet).
The album opens with swirling synths gently pulsating and a wash of cooing vocals over the minimal beat pushing the rest forward and into the albums first proper song, Tunnels. Immediately there is something striking about this music. I mean damn, is this rock ‘n’ roll or shoegaze (literally if someone would have described their band as both genres before this record I would have called bullshit). Tunnels is most definitely an anthem that exists in a musical world where anthems don’t usually exist. And then were right back into the hazy world where lilac shadows makes their case as one of the most promising local talents. Tsunami has that psychedelic touch that reminds me slightly of The War On Drugs but with more muscle and more darkness (can I say that about an album with this particular title?). On the second half, there is more of the same. Hard hitting guitar driven psychedelic rock with enough synth and effect pedals to remind us just how inspired these guys are by fellow shoegazers. I was particularly drawn to the harmony during the chorus of title track No Dark/No Light. To end things off, literally probably my favorite track on the whole album, Drone. I had serious high hopes for this as a huge fan of drone/noise and while you can be certain that this is not an actual drone track, it is another reminder that this album has just shattered my once held belief that rock and shoegaze we’re not compatible in any real way in the music world. (Hits play to start listening again)