Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Murray A. Lightburn: "Mass:Light" (album review)

The Dears have always had a flair for the dramatic.  There music is sweeping and cinematic.  That hasn't changed on Mass:Light, the debut solo album from the band's frontman Murray A. Lightburn.

What has changed are the sounds.  Unlike the orchestral rock of the band's music, Lightburn's solo record (out August 20th) takes a far more electronic approach.

From the get-go, the opening number "Motherfuckers", Lightburn seems determined to make a record akin to sci-fi musical theatre.  On "Never See Light" he plays Dr. Frankenstein by using a vibrating sound that seems to create life out of nothingness.

The beats on "A Thousand Light Years" verge on dance, but he melds it beautifully with an ominous '80s techno Goth atmosphere which makes the entire thing sound futuristic.  "Through Storms" is a simple, slick update on the funky groove.

On occasion (eg "War Halls") the electronic swirl can become a bit grating.  The vocals on "I Believe, I Believe" rank among Lightburn's strongest and deepest.  The effectiveness of the song, however, is muted by a mind-numbing beat.

A constant link between The Dears and Lightburn's solo effort is his unmistakable voice.  He has ability to be both commanding and emotional, sometimes within the same song (as on the percolating title track).

Despite Lightburn's vocals being such a key element of the music, it's actually an instrumental that may be the standout cut on the record.  With an organ leading into a hypnotic rhythm, "From Dreams" is an incredibly compelling listen.

Mass:Light is a jarring listen at first, since it is not at all what you would expect.  However, it is one that gets better and more fulfilling with each subsequent engagement.

Best tracks: "From Dreams", "Never See Light"

Track listing for Mass:Light:
  • Motherfuckers
  • Never See Light
  • A Thousand Light Years
  • Through Storms
  • From Dreams
  • Mass:Light
  • War Halls
  • I Believe, I Believe
  • In Pieces

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