artifacts of the no-audience underground: lanterns back catalogue

July 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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  • Gultskra Artikler/Lanterns – Berezka/Monkey Lament (Other Electricities, OE014, coloured vinyl split LP)
  • Lanterns – Inner Horizon (Colour Ride, C30 cassette)

In a recent review of some tapes by Spoils and Relics I attempted to establish their excellence by contrasting them with a lacklustre performance by a similar metamusical improv trio I had seen years previously.  This tactic proved embarrassing for two reasons.  Firstly, it is a mean-spirited critical gambit, out of kilter with the usually jolly and positive tone of this blog.  Secondly, it turned out that the performance I dissed was an early set by Lanterns, a band I saw/heard after this event and came to like very much.  One of the Spoils and Relics tapes is even dedicated to Rhid Williams – Lanterns band member.  It’s a small world…

…and in this small world actions have consequences.  Luke Vollar, fellow Lanternite, came across this review and, honour sullied, challenged me to a duel.  Well, I say ‘challenged’ – it got as far as him slapping my face with his exquisite calf-skin glove whereupon I fell to my knees and screamed for my mother.  In the end Luke had to buy me an ice cream and promise to send me some Lanterns stuff just to stop me crying.  Heh, heh – result!  It was all a ruse to get some freebies and it worked!

Being a man of his word, an impressive parcel turned up a few days later containing the releases above.  The LP, a split with Russian avant-folkster Gultskra Artikler, is a thing of beauty.  Full colour sleeve, one illustration for each band (half-and-half of which you can see in the picture).  The vinyl itself is a mottled grey, as if pressed from the ashes of a bonfire fuelled by ill-advised teenage record collections.

The Lanterns contribution, Monkey Lament, comprises two tracks.  The first of the pair, ‘Snake Ice’, has the vibe of a synth-based soundtrack to a straight-to-video LA based 80s thriller.  It would feel right at home on a Sanity Muffin tape as it is looking through the same blue lit plate glass as Naked Lights.  The sheen has been almost rubbed off by generations of duping or perhaps abraded by the ‘fog of regret’ and ‘sediments of despair’ settings on their Lanterns branded multi-FX unit.  Melancholy, simple, great.

The second track, ‘Dir Tup’, starts more exotic but swiftly resolves itself into a psychedelic hoe-down.  A rolling acoustic guitar riff accompanied by some scratchy, squeaky violin suggests that Pa and Uncle Joe have been eating those little mushrooms that grow on the cow flop again.  The agricultural groove is augmented with, at first, birdsong and, later, sheep baaing.  It is charming, fun and has an easy, agreeably lolloping flow.

The only problem with the music here is that there isn’t enough of it.  I’m a big fan of leaving ‘em wanting more but even for me this is a little short: the Lanterns side totals about 13 minutes.  I think that, given the quality is being thoroughly controlled, they could have trusted themselves to provide a third track.  But this is a minor quibble.  I would always rather have too little than too much.

The pastoral bounce continues on the Inner Horizon tape.  The beginning of the first side (the side with ‘Lanterns’ written on it) suggests walking through beautiful ‘gardens all wet with rain’ (copyright Van Morrison) but after a few minutes a huge pull-back-and-reveal shows us that we are actually on board a Silent Running style bio-ark about to be dragged into the influence of some mysterious space object.  We join the robots on the outside of the ship frantically trying to correct our course.  Luckily they are up to the task and, with the engines now roaring silently, they take a moment to glory in the weirdness of the thing that nearly caused our tragic end.  Within the dome we continue to frolic, as innocent as Eloi.

The second side has a consistently frantic, trance-inducing feel throughout.  Underneath a crust of drone, a sea of molten electrics fizzes, whips and crackles.  Add to this a relentlessly paced, vaguely Middle Eastern keyboard line and you have an invitation to hands outstretched, eyes closed, whirling delirium.  Cleansing.

Sadly, I’m told that Lanterns are currently on a lengthy hiatus that may prove permanent.  However, RFM is concerned more with quality than novelty so I’m happy to recommend back catalogue items and cross my fingers that more recordings will surface or be made.  The tape can be had directly from the label Colour Ride – buy here.  The LP is apparently sold out at source but the label, Other Electricities will happily sell you mp3s – buy here.  Alternatively, my moles in the industry tell me that a lot of copies of this LP were pressed so it may be worth trawling the distros or contacting Luke directly – lukevollar@hotmail.com – to see what he can do for you.

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