As evocative as the atmosphere on Dark Horses' debut album Black Music was, it sometimes felt like it obscured the band's power too much. On Hail Lucid State, they strip away much of the electronic washes surrounding their songs, focusing instead on their rock underpinnings. The band reunited with Death in Vegas' Richard Fearless as producer, and his work is even more impressive this time as he helps Dark Horses balance the album's directness and their tendency to float off into the ether. This blend works particularly well on the soaring synth pop-meets-Krautrock of "Saturn Returns," which manages to be trippy, sexy, and even a little idealistic at the same time. That said, Hail Lucid State often shines brightest when the band really leans into its rock impulses. "Live on Hunger" keeps just enough of Black Music's ambience to give the impression that Dark Horses are hurtling through space on laser-guided guitars, but the song's driving rhythms truly sound hungry -- something the band's debut didn't always convey. Later on, "Wake Up" lives up to its name, delivering a shot of post-punk adrenaline, while "Transister" proves Dark Horses can achieve psychedelic states with a sparer sound. As always, though, the band's biggest special effect is Lisa Elle's voice. She sounds more commanding, alluring, and versatile than ever on Hail Lucid State, rivaling the fiery likes of Alison Mosshart and Liela Moss on the album's louder songs and sounding like a cosmically aloof alien goddess on "Sevens." The album falters a bit when the album slows down; while the title track achieves a majestic sweep, Hail Lucid State's other contemplative moments aren't as compelling. Still, the album's more direct approach suits Dark Horses and suggests they'll continue coming into their own.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares