Illusions and Reverie
Fantasy, the third album from Vancouver duo Lightning Dust, evokes a dreamy atmosphere that’s certainly conducive to spinning phantasmic visions. Amber Webber and Josh Wells (both from the band Black Mountain) move away from the folk and experimental vibes of their previous two records to indulge in ghostly synth-pop and electronica.
The opening track “Diamond” is a slow burner, starting out with computerized percussion, languid ’80s style synths and measured, quavery but smooth vocals from Webber. Much of Fantasy unravels like “Diamond,” at a slow but careful pace. “Reckless and Wild,” for example, is anything but reckless or wild: with space-age effects and swells of airy synths, it’s a ballad full of nostalgic reminiscences about past escapades.
Fantasy perfects this kind of minimalistic, brooding, meditative synth-pop. Lightning Dust know how to make each note count, using sparse compositions to achieve a more poignant sound. This is evident on “Mirror,” where light percussion and vocals are joined by gently cascading synth melodies, and on “Moon,” the album’s only somewhat-acoustic song. A slowly picked guitar melody accompanies Webber’s vocals in a sweet lullaby, a single, low bassy synth underpinning the vocals.
Lightning Dust pull off this sound best on “In the City Tonight” and “Agatha,” two of the album’s darkest tracks. “In the City Tonight” begins with slow, spare percussion and single, ascending synth notes. “Did you drown the part of me that’s gone?” Webber asks as the percussion picks up, adding more synths and layered vocals. At the end of the song, a low, mourning cello wavers in, buzzing and gloomy. Strings make another other appearance on “Agatha,” a ghostly, gothic tune where Webber’s arching soprano vocals float over a morose piano. Violins and cellos shiver and quaver here, almost cinematic in their melancholy tones, providing an interesting counterpart to the synths used so ubiquitously on the rest of the album.
But Lightning Dust aren’t all doom and gloom. “Fire Me Up” features a catchy, low synth melody that picks up the beat with a big, retro sound as Webber sings about a romantic tryst. “Loaded Gun” also has a hooky bass melody and a techno-electro feel reminiscent of Daft Punk, but with Lightning Dust’s signature gritty edge. And the album’s closing track, “Never Again,” restores hope that maybe this fantasy won’t end badly—despite the somewhat negative subject matter, it’s a little more upbeat, with big, echoing percussion and ’80s synths hearkening back to the dreaminess of “Diamond.” While Fantasy isn’t groundbreaking or exciting, it is a carefully composed album of economical songs, each designed to take you and your imagination on a contemplative ride.