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Compilation Appearances Volume 1 includes all the Lycia compilation appearances from the first half of the Nineties, written and recorded in Arizona. The songs showcase a wide range of styles, from the post-punk “Down,” to the industrialesque sludge of “Excade Decade Decada,” to the electronic ambient “The Deception.” Also included are tracks from the 1994 Lycia instrumental side project, Dust, as well as several previously unreleased songs. Compilation Appearances Volume 1 is the first in a series of Lycia archival releases.
Lycia's sound has never really changed over the years; scathingly atmospheric and isolationistic, Van Portfleet has driven his project through the reaches of utter nihilism and distraught solitude. Walls of clawed and crawling sound, voids of echoes and reverberations and nightmarishly processed guitars characterise Lycia's desolate sound.
"Excade Decade Decada" is probably one of the greatest Lycia songs ever recorded, with it's bleakly howling background and ominous towering walls of darkness and isolation, and Van Portfleet's rough emotive voice simply droning in the chaos. "Byzantine" is likewise great, though built on a more songlike structure, it was re-released also on Projekt's 100th release compilation. "The Deception" is a plodding and trancelike instrumental based on a dense drum-beat underpinned by screeching guitar trailing behind in the dust. Songs like "Down" and "Nine Hours Later" and "Sleepless" invoke the smoky past of early 80's gothic music, particularly Faith and Seventeen Seconds-era Cure; driven by slowly screaming and overly processed guitars and simple bass lines. "The Facade Fades" returns to the dense isolationistic desolation of "Excade" and "Byzantine," propelled by a machine-like drum-machine beat and multi-layered rhythms and sound structures. One live track, "Wake," is not as layered and dense as the others, but maintains a sleepy groove and overcast sea-side atmosphere. "Across A Thousand Blades" has an urgency the other songs do not possess and a slightly malign quality, and alongside "This Lush Garden Within" marks Lycia's incorporation into the Projekt family, since the last two are covers of Black Tape For A Blue Girl (Projekt label head Sam Rosenthal's band).
The Dust songs are the products of a side project with John Fair. Dust sound exactly like Lycia, though with an underlying pop-song structure; the five tracks here are have more energy to them and while totally instrumental, are in a standard song format and not the linear Lycia style.
One of the best things about Lycia is Mike VanPortfleet's honesty in his music; he is not caught up in the stylistic pretentiousness of goth, and his music seems to come straight from the imagination and heart. The release of Compilation Appearances should introduce Lycia to a new audience, unfamiliar with Van Portfleet's work, and show what an essential and innovative project Lycia was, and how valuable the back catalogue really is. - Phosphor
Probably the biggest surprise for me on this mostly excellent 70-minute-plus collection was how much of Lycia's early material falls pretty comfortably into the gothic rock realm, even though I'd always thought of the group as being more ambient in tone. Partly this results from a trick of fate, as VanPortfleet explained in the liner notes to Projekt 100 (on which two of the tracks on this CD first appeared); he had recorded almost a full album's worth of harsher material under the working title Byzantine, but shelved it "when the initial mixing sessions produced nothing more than uncontrolled mud." The album that eventually resulted was 1991's Ionia, which was much more ambient-sounding. Both the tracks here from the Byzantine sessions combine deep, Andrew Eldritch or Carl McCoy-like intoned vocals with heavy beats and noisy, fuzzed-out guitars; "Excade Decade Decada" suffocates you with incredibly dark synth atmospheres and a voice from the crypt begging you to "take this away," while the hypnotic voice on "Byzantine" intones its almost-subliminal messages in an echoing whisper buried under layer upon layer of distortion.
Given how much I loved A Day in the Stark Corner, it should come as no surprise that I also really enjoyed "Everything Is Cold," originally recorded during the sessions for that album. A heavy, cold, hammering beat in back mixes with pretty but disturbingly off-key acoustic guitar and VanPortfleet's characteristically enigmatic lyrics to create a feeling of madness settling softly around your hunched shoulders like a gray, isolating shroud. "The Facade Fades" (from the 1993 compilation Love and Hate) takes a more straight-ahead goth/industrial approach, with slightly cliched but still cool lyrics and a really fine bass line.
All in all, this CD is an excellent collection of Lycia's early work, essential for their fans, and a great introduction to the group for everyone else. - Dave Aftandilian
This uncomplicated approach with making music as art has intrigued and delighted fans worldwide, securing the band's continuously growing underground phenomenon. Lycia has since disbanded, largely due to VanPortfleet's continuous battle with diabetes, however their 10-year reign as one of the top goth/ambient artists is thus far unparalleled. All of the members continue to create music, however the grind of live tours is now behind them. The Compilation Appearances CD includes a wide range of styles, from post-punk to electronic ambient. These are 17 rare tracks from the early Lycia years as well as the entire Dust sessions, a Lycia instrumental side project. It is a great introduction for new fans as well as a delightful gem for the die-hard fans who thought they had all of Lycia's work in their collection. This is also Lycia before Tara VanFlower added her vocal talents to the work, which didn't arise until October 1994.
The music delves into the darkest corners beyond the recesses of one's imagination as well as soars through optimistic heights. No one can ever accuse Lycia of being pigeonholed to one style, though there have been many imitators along the way. The work simply shimmers and glistens no matter what type of light or lack thereof that it is exposed to. The work, then as well as now, breaks new ground which often defies description. The graphic works on the CD sleeve are culled from Mike VanPortfleet's own personal photographic collection, treating us to another facet of his artistic ability. We are further exposed to his propensity to see the world with a keen eye for detail and precision. One can't help but hear music jumping out from the photographs, as their line and structure are as sleek as any note Lycia ever recorded.
In an underground world where bands are trying to imitate the latest synth-pop craze to make some musical headway, Lycia managed to remain the Rumplestiltskin of the music world, weaving melodies that gleam like gold in the moonlit night. Even today, VanPortfleet et al have been continuously crafting music, cranking out so many side projects that even the most ardent fan would have a tough time keeping up. All of the work from this disc represents an unpretentious parameter of artists whose work is fully approachable without being commercial. It is a great overview of some of Lycia's work, some previously available while others were never available to the public before now. The best way to really sum up Lycia is to equate the music with a museum masterpiece. The music, as well as the painted canvas, requires time to absorb, reflect and cogitate from various angles. Sadly, we have too many people today looking for the latest fad with a quarter beat who rarely stop to notice great art, painted or otherwise. Those who manage to go within themselves to understand where an artist's focus is coming from are more richly rewarded for the experience. Projekt Records promises that this is only a first in a series of many more archived Lycia releases. If you haven't purchased a Lycia CD yet, you may want to start with this one since it is the latest as well as a flashback to the beginning of what became the benchmark for the gothic ethereal world. -Mike Ventarola
Rather than just releasing a ‘best of’ album, fans are treated with this instead: a collection of outtakes, rarities and a few alternate versions of older songs. I am thrilled about this, as it will hopefully direct new fans back to the older releases. (Which need to be heard as a whole – there are no singles on early Lycia CD’s, my friends) The alternate versions of songs like “Everything Is Cold” “Nine Hours Later” or “The Facade Fades” are not as impressive as the original versions, however its kind of nice to hear them in a demo or more stripped down form. But the unreleased material is absolutely superb! “Excade Decade Decada” is by far the most unnerving, depressive, stark, and eerie song Lycia has ever produced. Hell, it might even be the scariest song on Projekt records! It RULES. The track takes some cues from the grating sludge of Godflesh and early Swans, but crowned with the hypnotizing guitars and chilling whispers that only Mike Van Portfleet is capable of delivering. The shuffling rhythms of “Down” and the groove oriented swirl of “Byzantine” share the melancholic guitar tones and riffs of Ionia and the Wake releases. The closing five tracks of the album also sport the same cavernous and bleak sound that helped Lycia rise to the top of the darkwave genre. These tracks in particular make up the entire Dust sessions, a short-lived off shoot of Lycia that never really got off the ground I suppose. Regardless, it would have been a punishable crime if these songs just remained in Projekt’s vaults! The covers of “Across A Thousand Blades” and “This Lush Garden Within” are amazing and very well done, especially the former. Some abrasive drum programming and sinister guitar flanges add a unique and cast an even darker shadow on the already intense and stark Black Tape For A Blue Girl originals.
I can’t stress enough how important of a release this CD is to older fans of Lycia as well to fans just discovering the band or the Projekt label. This is not some filler compilation; it’s as if it’s 1994 and there is a brand new Lycia album out on the shelves fans the world over will be more than pleased to hear this. Can’t wait for volume two! - Matthew
The songs on this disc represent work from 1990-1994, some of the songs having seen limited release, others being made available here for the first time. For a fan it's a true wonder, spanning through some of the my favorite periods of Lycia's past. There are tracks here recorded around the times of Ionia and A Day in the Stark Corner which serve as wonderful reminders of the strength and power of those discs. "The Deception," an unreleased song recorded in the Spring of 1991 stands out as a brilliant companion to the songs from Ionia, capturing the same majesty and dark beauty found on that classic album.
In addition there are a number of songs from other sessions and projects that took place during the five years covered by this comp. The entire Dust recordings are presented here, as well as a pair of songs from the Byzantium sessions. Brilliant works all of them, each track a true treasure.
I've always felt that there are two types of compilations. The first features a collection of songs that remind you how much you like a band. Singles, hits, fan favorites are all included and as a disc it becomes a convenient substitute for your favorite mixed tape of songs. The second type of compilation, the type in which Compilation Appearances falls into, is the compilation that reminds you not only of how much you like a band, but how much their songs affect you, how much they mean to you. What's more, rather than making you discard all your old albums in favor of a convenient collection, the second type of compilation sends you back to those old albums to rediscover how great they are, how many treasures you can hear again, and what new treasures you'll find with a fresh listen. For me, Compilation Appearances is an inspiration to reacquaint myself with some old friends. Don't bother calling me, I'll be listening to my Lycia discs...
According to the official Lycia site, this is the first half of a pair of compilation discs set for release this year. The second is planned to be out for summer 2001, and if this first collection is any indication of what we can expect from the second, I can hardly wait to hear it. - rik