Lightning Dust

Lightning Dust

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Members of Vancouver's psychedelic space rock monster Black Mountain have formed several side projects up until this point, and what's striking is that all of these ensembles, duos, and solo acts have been consistently good. Lightning Dust, comprised of Amber Webber and Joshua Wells, is no exception; their self-titled debut is stark, curst, strange, and compelling. It's the sparse, meditative complement to Black Mountain's galloping repertoire: epic acid folk twined in the latter band's energy charged synth-trippery. To put it another way, this is Black Sabbath's witchy-hippy granddaughter, or Devendra Banhart's Mood-wielding twin sister. Lightning Dust, at its core, is all about Webber's deep, dark vocals (think Chan Marshall meets Grace Slick) and her haunting lyrics. And the fact that she's been given room to move into the forefront on Lightning Dust is pretty much the disc's biggest draw; she's come out from behind Black Mountain's sauropaud-sized rock and into her own. This album is by and large plodding and melancholy, but Lightning Dust manage to inject it with enough tension to keep things from growing sodden and mirey. In fact, the album is at its best when the mood is dark; the sole upbeat number, "Wind Me Up," actually sounds disproportionate and contrived compared to the rest of the tracks. Wells and Webber haven't delved into strikingly new territory on this disc; many of the tracks found here, "Take Me Back" and "Heaven" in particular, sound like they'd be right at home on a Black Mountain release. If there's anything to be learned from Lightning Dust, it's that Webber's talent is essentially buried under the weight of Black Mountain. She's a huge vocalist, and in some respects she might be a more rewarding musician than Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean.

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