Lycia


Wake

Lycia - Wake ©1989 Projekt
1. Nothing
2. Wake
3. This Decline
4. Sing Like Sirens
5. Incinerate
6. Time
7. The Bells
8. From Foam
9. Down There

Wake is a collection of some of the early Lycia demos that first snared Projekt's attention with the darkwave act that has since taken listeners through many outstanding soundscapes of desolation, hope, despair and eternity. Lycia has retained a central sound all this time, having only become more refined and distinctive in time. The early works shown here are rhythmically a little unsound due to the somewhat cheap sounding drum machine, but the treated guitar and Mike van Portfleet's pained sounding whisper are quite intact. On tracks like "Time", his voice sounds positively as if he resented ever being woken up that morning and hey, who really gives a damn if we exist anyhow? As opposed to the lusher sounds of later works, Wake has a more recognizable guitar though its very tone is one of sorrow and bleakness. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone but already established Lycia fans, but it does represent a historical look at where this unique and very wonderful outfit originated.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/1999

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A Day In The Stark Corner

Lycia - A Day In The Stark Corner ©1993 Projekt
1. And Through The Smoke And Nails
2. Pygmallion
3. The Body Electric
4. Wide Open Spaces
5. The Morning Breaks So Cold And Gray
6. The Remnants And The Ruins
7. Goddess Of The Green Fields
8. Everything Is Cold
9. Sorrow Is Her Name
10. Daphne

Truly one of the most unique outfits that I can think of, this particular work documents songs recorded to four-track in the early 90's by Mike van Portfleet. Some of the songs ("Pygmallion", "The Body Electric", and "Everything is Cold") appear elsewhere in the Lycia catalogue in somewhat different form, but overall the album is chock full of what makes Lycia so wonderful and compelling. Van Portfleet's ability to craft such delicate and mesmerizing pieces of music simply blows me away. Very few artists have succeeded in putting so much space and atmosphere between the notes and rhythms and still maintain fluidity and mood. Lycia over the past year has become one of my favorite late night bands to listen to and this is just another example of why.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1998

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The Burning Circle and Then Dust

Lycia - The Burning Circle and Then Dust ©1995 Projekt
Disc 1:
A Presence In The Woods
Wandering Soul
The Dust Settles (Part 1)
Sleepless
The Dust Settles (Part 2)
The Return Of Nothing
The Dust Settles (Part 3)
Pray
The Better Things To Come
On The Horizon
Where Has All The Time Gone
Silence And Distance
Anywhere But Home
In The Fire And Flames
Slip Away
The Last Day
Disc 2:
August (Part 1)
Nine Hours Later
Nimble
August (Part 2)
The Facade Fades
Resigned
Surrender
These Memories Pass
The Burning Circle
The New Day

Without a doubt, The Burning Circle and Then Dust represents the pinnacle of Lycia's career, presenting a creative and musical highpoint that the outfit never quite matched since. The album was originally planned as a single CD, but Mike Van Portfleet said in interviews that he and collaborater David Galas were having such fun in the studio that they continued on with another CD's worth of material. The intention was to use it for compilations and whatnot, but ultimately it got tacked onto The Burning Circle. In 2005, Van Portfleet remastered the album and eliminated most of the second disc. This decision, as you will read about shortly, is precisely why I'm reviewing the original Projekt version and ultimately will suggest finding the double CD version once you're convinced this is one of the best darkwave releases of the 90s.

The Burning Circle is actually a fairly basic recording, sticking to a formula of guitar, synthesizers and a whole lot of decay effects. Lycia had a knack for creating music that filled an immense space with a minimal amount of fuss. Van Portfleet's vocals are quiet and contemplative, providing considerably more emotional impact than any dozen baritone flavored Andrew Eldritch chameleons. And despite the fact this band has always been associated with the gothic and darkwave scenes, The Burning Circle even provides occasional hopeful moments, such as "Pray".

The two discs are obviously the results of the same recording session, but the second disc is where it's at. The first disc is very good, without a doubt. However, the second disc has long been my favorite Lycia "album". Despite being slightly extraneous material, as recently learned, the second disc is an amazingly cohesive and unified effort. From the sound of rain that introduces "August Part 1" to the closing notes of "The New Day", this half of The Burning Circle is an impressive listen that flows together into a seamless piece. Lycia's use of space and quiet dynamics within the music is best exemplified here. Suffice to say, I can't begin to count the evenings I've spent over the last decade listening to this disc with headphones.

Having had this album for many years, I can easily say that it has aged perfectly and still presents a wonderful listening experience. For the life of me I can't figure out why a reissued version would truncate the best material, so I highly recommend curious fans seek out the original 1995 edition on Projekt. The Burning Circle and Then Dust is absolutely one of my most treasured albums of all time and one I strongly encourage people to track down.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/2008

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Estrella

Lycia - Estrella ©1998 Projekt
1. Clouds In The Southern Sky
2. El Diablo
3. Tainted
4. Tongues
5. Estrella
6. Dome
7. Silver Sliver
8. The Canal
9. The Kite
10. Orion
11. Distant Fading Star

Even from the first listen, every song on this album seems to be strangely familiar, as if they had appeared on different Lycia releases in the past. The immediate omniscience of the album gives way to something even more striking...this is easily the top of the Lycia achievements, equaling The Burning Circle and Then Dust for overall mood inducement and tranquility. Tara Vanflower's voice is featured very prominently throughout; she is very serene and floating in her delivery. Estrella succeeds where Cold couldn't quite do so. Cold set the listener adrift in lonliness and was a bit too, well, cold. Estrella cuddles the listener more, bringing you into the true feeling of the music. Exceptional indeed.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1998


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Compilation Appearances, Vol 2

Lycia - Compilation Appearances, Vol 2 ©2001 Projekt
1. This Brilliant Nightmare
2. We Three Kings
3. In A Lonely Place
4. Everything Is Cold
5. Clouds In The Southern Sky (sweeping In Like Waves)
6. Caterpillar Butterfly
7. The Morning Breaks So Cold And Gray (live)
8. Grey Clouds (live)
9. Dome
10. Defective
11. Transition
12. The Devil
13. The Time Passes Quickly
14. O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Ever since Lycia disbanded and broke the hearts of their small but very loyal cult following, Mike VanPortfleet has been very kind in providing fans with rarities and other hard to find items to help ease the pain. The Compilation Appearances series has so far been broke up into two parts, coinciding with the band's geographical location. The first volume focused on the band's earlier years located in Arizona while this volume covers their time spent in Ohio (a move that still baffles me since Arizona is considerably more beautiful and personally more inspiring than Ohio). The compilation is precisely what the title says it is: a collection of outtakes, compilation appearances and other rare and unreleased tracks. Chances are any Lycia fan would have to be fairly well off to afford all the compilations and tribute albums that Lycia has appeared on, so this collection is both extensive and welcome. The liner notes give a little bit of information on each track and where it originally appeared or what it was intended for. Some tracks appear from studio sessions for earlier albums or aborted releases. There are also a couple Christmas songs done in the famous, haunting, spacious Lycia style as well as a great Joy Division cover that is done in Lycia style, rather than duplicating Joy Division's version. All in all, Compilation Appearances, Vol. 2 is an excellent addition to any Lycia fan's collection and helps flesh out and broaden the experience of the band.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2002

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