THURSDAY, JULY 23, 2009|
Wavering vocals, fragile piano, and subdued shades of melancholy are the hallmarks of Lightning Dust's latest CD, Infinite Light. The duo weaves poignancy that, if it were more fleshed out, has the potential to be as heartwrenching as some moments on Arcade Fire's Funeral. But when Lightning Dust wants to hurt, it's a quiet hollow mass lodged in your throat or lurking in the pit of your stomach, it's an intimate knowledge of empty moments in lonely apartments.
Less cinematic than rain-streaked windows at night, these songs are the gray skies of the expectant pre-dawn, the ghosts that wait for you when you turn a corner and accidentally find yourself on a street from your childhood. No big traumas to be found here, no car crashes or raging storms, just the peculiar biting feeling brought on by shuttered windows and "For Sale" signs. Amber Webber's vaguely country-tinged voice gives "Antonia Jane" its promise, and "I Knew" its dynamic yearning. Subtly damaged and somehow familiar, it holds tight to heartstrings so that when it breaks on "Dreamer," it breaks your heart in turn.
Before you get scared away, this isn't a pitiful cryfest. Far from it. The sadness is there but it's beautiful and nuanced, not just misery for the sake of misery. It's balanced out with hope, and Webber maintains a resilience not to be easily messed with. "Wondering What Everyone Knows" puts you alone in a crowd, but gives you a companion. The lover's duet, "Honest Man," goes from despair to redemption in two short, dramatic minutes, demonstrating the CD's chief strength. The entire thing hits just high of the half-hour mark, but it wrings every moment for its full range of emotion even as it warns, "in a moment I could be gone."
No matter how loud you play it, this will be a quiet CD. They could have produced it a notch flashier, tapped into that epic Canadian bombast that comes so easily to fellow northerners Broken Social Scene, or even parent group Black Mountain Collective. Instead, this is purposefully intimate. This is Infinite Light and you, alone on a train, alone in an unfurnished room, alone in the universe, sitting on the floor not quite touching. This is the space between you, the stale air molecules stretching into chasms, mixing with particles of light and dust. And when the violins soar at the end of "Take it Home," closing out the album, that space closes as well. -Nina Mashurova