Vancouver indie duo Lightning Dust began as an outlet for the gentler side of Amber Webber and Josh Wells' muse, away from the heavy trudge of their other band, Black Mountain. Their first recordings embraced a minimal and ghostly folk outlook, while second album Infinite Light got weirder and angrier without necessarily growing heavier. Third album Fantasy finds the pair taking yet another stylistic turn, working with outdated rhythm boxes, synthesizers, and only the most bare-bones remnants of their earlier organic instrumentation that adds a brooding synth pop flavor to their always strong melodic components. The change is stark and fantastic. Album opener "Diamond" relies on booming, clumsy drums and brash synth basslines, over which Webber's urgent, restless vocal warbles evoke Stevie Nicks' '80s solo material, but displacing the ghostly harmonies to sit over woozy electronics instead of rock instruments. Similarly, "Mirror" has a dark synth pop approach that marries mysterious Kate Bush-esque vocal lines to a dire, minimal backdrop. This electronic phase is perhaps the most satisfying of Lightning Dust's perpetual development thus far. With Webber acting as a focal point, the sparse and menaced din of various synth gurgles and perfectly raw rhythms makes enough space for the group's glistening dynamic range to shine through. In the best moments of Fantasy, the band draws on the same neon chills as the Chromatics and the brittle romanticism of Bat for Lashes or Jessie Ware, and hints at earlier reference points as far-flung as Sinéad O'Connor and Suicide. The band does this without completely abandoning its earlier palette, with the acoustic guitar-based "Moon" and the gorgeous electric piano ballad "Agatha" simply filled out with electronic elements rather than drowning in them. By the album's conclusion, its strengths are found in the songwriting, which only benefits from Lightning Dust's restless experimentation and willingness to abandon their style for new modes well outside their comfort zone. The best songs on Fantasy are easily the best in Lightning Dust's catalog because of this winning combination of pushed boundaries and inspired writing.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas