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Lightning Dust - Spectre (Album Review)

Thursday, 10 October 2019 Written by Graeme Marsh

‘Spectre’ is Lightning Dust’s fourth album, and the first to arrive since singer-songwriter Amber Webber and founding member Josh Wells “retired their Black Mountain uniforms” in 2017 after over a decade as part of the Canadian collective.

Webber’s absence, in particular, was felt upon the release of Black Mountain’s ‘Destroyer’ earlier this year, despite leader Stephen McBean’s admirable attempt to plug the huge gap with the recruitment of Sleepy Sun’s Rachel Fannan. Lightning Dust have been through folk and electronica on their voyage to this stage, and there are elements of both within the new collection, but it is Webber’s startling vocal ability that lifts ‘Spectre’ to its considerable heights. 

In its minimalist moments, such as the haunting, string-led More and the achingly delicate, piano-backed Inglorious Flu, where familiar trembling returns to her voice, her performances are stunning. Joanna is also excellent, recalling All About Eve before a beautifully crafted, keys-driven outro competes with the exemplary vocals.

There’s very little here to remind us of the duo's schooling in Black Mountain, which may disappoint those who bemoaned Webber’s exit from the stoner-rock band, although opener Devoted To does feature a familiar spacey keyboard vibe in its initial moments before giving way to a fixated, undulating beat and agitated strings. 

In fact, the only song to remotely rock out anywhere near Black Mounain territory is closer 3am – 100 Degrees, but after building to that point it slowly decelerates to a snail’s pace as an acoustic guitar picks up the baton and Webber sings of a world fallen to its knees, crawling with disease.

Compelling synths drive the soaring Led Astray while the catchy, acoustic Run Away deals with the need for change, with its gorgeous, synth-backed chorus complementing another fine display from Webber. A couple of guest appearances spark further interest, with Destroyer’s Dan Bejar contributing backing vocals to the short Competitive Depression and Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus adding some guitar to the country-folk-tinged A Pretty Picture. But, make no mistake, this is Webber and Wells’s baby.

Having turned their side-project into their main focus, the duo have crafted their best offering to date. The driving force behind the album was Webber’s belief that women are under-represented in society, not just in music, but Wells’s ability to help embellish her vision is just as important to Lightning Dust. ‘Spectre’ is, quite simply, a great collection of songs delivered in style.

Lightning Dust Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat November 23 2019 - LONDON Corsica Studios
Sun November 24 2019 - LIVERPOOL 24 Kitchen Street
Mon November 25 2019 - GLASGOW Broadcast
Tue November 26 2019 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club

Click here to compare & buy Lightning Dust Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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