by C. Familton
The debut album from New Yorkers Light Asylum follows their well received In Tension EP from 2010 and finds Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello positing their songs in a colder and harsher sonic environment than that first EP.
Funchess is still the absolute drawcard with her voice that can sound like any and everyone from Neneh Cherry and Grace Jones to Ian Curtis and Sisters of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch. There is little sugar coating in her delivery as she barks, shrieks and intones her lyrics in every way possible, making for a varied and often confrontational listening experience amid the pseudo industrial synth primitivism.
Musically Light Asylum’s sound is firmly placed in the late 70s and early 80s, most notably at the junction when synths became affordable and began to be integrated into pop music via acts like Depeche Mode and Cabaret Voltaire. The sparse application of these sounds lends the music an innocence and naive euphoria, empowering Funchess to take centre stage. Angel Tongue is a mid record highlight strangely recalling Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance in Funchess’ timbre and melodies over a bubbling and repetitive Kraftwerkian backdrop. A Certain Someone which appeared on their EP and is re-recorded here as A Certain Person also impresses with its whinnying horses, stratospheric chorus and synthetic funk.
Unfortunately for every moment of greatness there are also misfires where the soul has been drained from the music and the humanistic elements replaced with machines. It makes for an overly dystopian nightmare mood with brittle drum machines and coarse synth stabs and while it works effectively on some occasions, too often the effect is abrasive. Rather than being underdone this is an album that feels overdone and an opportunity lost.
this review was first published in Drum Media