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Highways Review

by Richie Unterberger

On Highways, Lanterna offered more of the instrumental rock sounds for which they'd become known: shimmering, reverberant, oft-overlapping guitar lines by Henry Frayne that set some of the more pleasing moods to be had in early-21st century ambient music. The band Scenic is an inevitable point of comparison, and in fact Scenic's Bruce Licher did Highways' package design. Lanterna, though, are mellower and less edgy than Scenic, though hardly bland. While Frayne's compositions (on which he's supported by Eric Gebow's drums and Mike Brosco's tape effects) are soothing, they avoid the facile slickness of new age music, with more of a rock rhythm on some songs than any new age recording would allow. And though they (like Scenic) are apt to bring to mind a drive through the Southwest desert without the visuals, the guitar sustain and reverb don't seem as gratuitously geared toward evoking the desert landscape as they do when used by numerous more pop-oriented artists. Don't, incidentally, hit the "eject" button when the music fades away to apparent silence at the end of the eighth track; after four minutes of eerie vague sonic murmurings that are often only subliminally audible, the volume cranks up again to go into a "real" song, "Highways." After four minutes, that too fades away, this time into nothingness, only for some guitar passages to suddenly reappear after a five-minute gap; the 17-minute "Highways" continues to waver between false endings and snippets of music and sound before the CD really stops spinning.

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