Articles tagged with Black Mountain

Lightning Dust – “Never Again”

Lightning Dust
Now that Black Mountain seems to have wound down for the time being, Amber Webber and Joshua Wells are back with more Lightning Dust material. Here’s the moody “Never Again,” which is carried by expansive synths, echoing electro beats and Webber’s quivering vocals.

This comes from the duo’s new split 7″ with Hard Drugs, which is coming out October 4 through the Storyboard Label. Go to Exclaim! for more.

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Bloody visions of a world so torn

The kind of band that signs its address as The Universe
I’m not sure how many pieces I’ve written for Exclaim! in the past year, but it’s easily in the four-digits. Still, in all of those articles, this is the first time I’ve written an interview for the hard copy of the paper. It’s with Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean (not the first time) and it appears in this month’s issue. I also reviewed the new album, Wilderness Heart.

Here’s the single “Old Fangs,” which I still haven’t posted. This is a duet with a slow-chugging groove, some Deep Purple-style organ and spaced-out synth atmospherics—so it’s pretty much the prototypical Black Mountain song.

MP3: “Old Fangs”
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Children having their fun with the blues

Black and white Mountain
When I interviewed Stephen McBean of Black Mountain for Exclaim! back in the spring, he name-dropped a new tune called “The Hair Song.” Now, the song has been released as the new single from the upcoming Wilderness Heart, due out in Canada on September 14 via Outside Music. It’s a bluesy sourthern rocker, as McBean and Amber Webber trade off on lead vocals over acoustic strums and whiskey-soaked slide riffs. It’s a catchy tune, and is more straightforward than anything the band has released since 2005′s self-titled debut.

MP3: “The Hair Song”
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Lightning Dust @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 8/27/09

Lightning Dust
Lightning Dust’s self-titled album from 2007 was so sparse that most of its arrangements were easily replicated live by the band’s two members, Amber Webber and Josh Wells. But the pair’s new album, the gorgeous Infinite Light, is significantly more elaborate than the debut, meaning that the group has now expanded to a four-piece touring lineup, including a drummer and Amber’s twin sister Ashley on bass and backup vocals.

Although the new album dropped over three weeks ago, Lightning Dust had not played a hometown release show until last night, when the newly expanded outfit appeared at the Biltmore. The venue was packed, with Black Mountain cohort Stephen McBean lurking conspicuously in the wings, suggesting that the group’s increased press coverage is starting to pay off.

Even with two additional musicians in the fold, many of the live arrangements were significantly pared down from the lush album cuts. Without its programmed beat, “I Knew” was a straightforward country gallop, only Wells’s synth arpeggios hinting at the electro-tinged studio version. “The Times” was similarly unadorned, lacking its “Sympathy for the Devil”-aping bongo/shaker percussion.

Given that this was a hometown show, Lightning Dust was also able to enlist some additional help from friends; during several songs, they were joined onstage by a cellist and a violinist, and these moments of six-piece grandeur were the highlights of the set. The marching beat and “Eleanor Rigby”-style strings of “Dreamer” were chilling, while the extended outro of “Take It Home” was cinematic in its sweeping grandeur.

Surprisingly, given that the show was a release party for Infinite Light, the band ended with a series of cuts from its self-titled album. The main set finished with the rollicking folk stomper “Wind Me Up,” while the encore consisted of the haunting ballads “Highway” and “Take Me Back.” It was a surprising choice to end a triumphant hometown show on such a bleak note. Still, given that they didn’t even play the new internet single “Never Seen,” Webber and Wells clearly weren’t interested in pandering to their newly-won Pitchfork fanbase.
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Lightning Dust ups the ante

Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
Lightning Dust‘s self-titled debut, released in 2007, is one of the most sombre, depressing records in recent memory. The album is entirely made up of piano ballads and sparse acoustic dirges, many of the arrangements featuring only a single instrument to accompany the vocals.

For their second album, Infinite Light, Amber Webber and Joshua Wells (best known as 2/5 of Black Mountain) have opted for lusher arrangements, embellishing their songs with Hounds of Love-style synthesizers and thundering percussion. Webber’s shuddering vibrato is as affecting as always, but this time it’s backed with spectral harmonies and a chilling string section. Stylistically, “Never Seen” isn’t a huge departure from the last album, but its haunting electric piano chords are joined by atmospheric synth flourishes and a cavernous, slow-motion drumbeat. By the time the song reaches is reverb-soaked climax, the rich instrumentation is so soothing that it could almost be new age.

mp3: “Never Seen”

Elsewhere, Lightning Dust lifts the mood with major key pop songs that could almost be described as radio friendly. “The Times” features deep, resonating piano chords supported by a rhythm section of bongos and shakers, sounding for all the world like the Rolling Stones (think “Sympathy for the Devil”). The drums that enter in the final minute are so breakneck that it resembles a continuous drumroll.

Lead single “I Knew” begins with a jackhammer electro beat and countrified acoustic arpeggios as Webber adopts a southern twang in keeping with the backwoods atmosphere; with a chorus that repeats the lyric “I knew love,” it’s the group’s most accessible song yet.

mp3: “I Knew”

Lightning Dust’s progression on Infinite Light is so pronounced that it sounds almost like an entirely different band. And, mostly importantly, it’s better in every way imaginable: the production is crisper, the songs more memorable, the arrangements more dynamic. It’s so good, in fact, that it stands up against Pink Mountaintops‘ monumental Outside Love, another Black Mountain spin-off released earlier this year. With side projects this good, it’s hard to miss Black Mountain during its 2009 hiatus.

Infinite Light is out now via Jagjaguwar.
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Another great Black Mountain spin-off

It doesn’t look like we’re going to get a new Black Mountain album this year, but that’s okay, since the spin-off projects are coming in quick succession. A few weeks ago, it was Outside Love, the amazing new album by Stephen McBean’s Pink Mountaintops project. Next up is Lightning Dust, Amber Webber’s psych-folk duo with Black Mountain compatriot Joshua Wells.

The group’s upcoming sophomore album is called Infinite Light, and its first single, “I Knew,” has been released as a free download. Beginning with the rat-a-tat of an electronic bass drum, this sparse beat is soon joined by backwoods acoustic strumming and Amber Webber’s ever-tremulous vocals. Her singing is dark and dramatic as always, this time delivered with an affected twang in keeping with the folksy guitar. Buzzy synth arpeggios enter in the second verse as Webber describes an anachronistic romance with a bad boy hero seemingly drawn straight out of Western flick. It’s a charming tune, part Southern gothic, part electro minimalism.

mp3: “I Knew”

Infinite Light is due out August 4 via Jagjaguwar.
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Romantic melodrama, but not really

Stephen McBean has claimed that Outside Love, his latest album under the Pink Mountaintops moniker, sounds like a Danielle Steel romance novel set to music. But I’m not sure I entirely agree. Sure, the album is sexy and dramatic–just take the opening track, “Axis: Thrones of Love,” an anthemic fuzz rocker with gorgeous boy-girl vocals and a chorus of “How deep is your love?” (Deep? Oh, I get it.)

But the reason the Danielle Steel comparison doesn’t quite jive with me is that there is nothing tacky or trite about Outside Love. Rather, it’s a heartfelt album, full of poignant ballads and noisy, propulsive rock. “Holiday” is one of the sweetest and most heartfelt songs of the year so far, an uncharacteristically poppy waltz-time strum-along, with a refrain of “Everyone I love deserves a holiday.”

I guess what I’m really try to say is that Danielle Steel novels suck, and this doesn’t. At all. Outside Love plays like one extended payoff, and any one of the ten songs here could have had a similar impact if taken out of the context of the album. Even “Vampire,” which initially seems like a plesantly innocuous mid-tempo campfire song, explodes in its final minute, with a breathtaking outro of group-sung vocals. And unlike previous Pink Mountaintops albums, which sounded like scuzzy bedroom recordings, Outside Love is beautifully produced–I don’t recall ever hearing a piano sound as deep and heavy as on “Axis: Thrones of Love,” nor harmonies as lush as on “Close to Heaven.”

mp3: “Vampire”

It’s as good as any album McBean has ever made, including even In the Future (his 2008 album with Black Mountain). Outside Love has greater sonic and stylistic diversity than ever before–”And I Thank You” is southern-fried country (the backup vocalist could almost pass for Loretta Lynn), while “The Gayest of Sunrises” is feedback-laden punk. The only apparent weakness is that ill-fitting Danielle Steele comparison. It sure does make for a memorable album cover though.

Outside Love is out now via Jagjaguwar. As of this posting, the entire album is streaming at Pink Mountaintops’ MySpace.
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