Click Here for an interview with Tara about this album.
"Tripping Back Into The Broken Days is our purest release. All the trappings have been stripped away, and it’s just like it was when I started writing music back in the early ‘80s: acoustic guitar and vocals, with me trying to express and escape.” - Mike VanPortfleet
After a two and a half year retirement from the music industry, Lycia returns with the stark and stripped to the bare bones CD Tripping Back Into The Broken Days. Sparse instrumentation flows with simple and raw, heartfelt songs. The feel of earthy lushness and deep atmospheres prevails. A sad and reflective slice of Americana.
Mike and Tara VanPortfleet revived Lycia to record this set of deeply personal songs. Stripping back the wall of effects-laden guitars and glacial atmospheres that are Lycia’s trademark, the album moves forwards with a style Mike describes as “a treated acoustic/ambient hybrid.”
Tripping Back Into The Broken Days’ vague, yet emotionally strong, theme follows the duo’s move across America, from the cold and gray Ohio winter, to the sun-baked Arizona desert, sprinkled occasionally with warm reflections back to simpler times. With the lines between deep emotions and wide open landscapes blurred, the visions of snow-covered fields & cold winter skies, of open roads & endless plains, of sun-glared views of the desert & oasis, evoke feelings of distant reflection and longing.
Formed in 1988, Lycia played a major role in defining the Darkwave movement of the 1990s, with such influential albums as Ionia (1991), A Day In The Stark Corner (1993) and Cold (1996).
“In the past I’ve written stream-of-consciousness-type lyrics, where the meanings were vague. For the first time, every word means something very specific to me, very personal, a bit like letting the world read my diary. For anyone who knows our history, this release should be very telling.” - Tara VanPortfleet
Tripping Back Into The Broken Days features pre-mastering treatments by ambient legend Steve Roach and mastering by Roger King.
After a semi-retirement for a couple of years, Lycia — down to the core duo of Mike Van Portfleet and Tara Vanflower — returned with another dark dream of an album, Tripping Back Into the Broken Days. With a new emphasis on acoustic guitar — though not solely, with the layers of echo and buried drones still providing the keys to the overall arrangements — the duo again shows that there is always a place for its deliberate, carefully textured take on goth. As is the case with most Lycia releases, the songs all tend toward extended lengths, generally allowing motifs and moods to be established and then carefully explored, with the two members more or less trading off lead turns throughout. Van Portfleet's signature singing style, suffused passion wrapped up in a sighing whisper, remains as it ever was, while Vanflower's singing has in ways never sounded more entrancing. There's a touch more directness in both their vocals this time out, in keeping with the lower-key focus of the album as a whole, but anyone wanting Lycia unplugged will yet have to wait a bit. That said, some songs come very beautifully close — "Asleep in the River," one of theVanflower-sung numbers, has a simply lovely introduction on guitar alone that seems to effortlessly slide into the main song. Her semi-spoken word turn at points almost suggests Jarboe in ways, not a bad thing in the slightest. "Vacant Winter Day" in turn is probably the pinnacle of the Van Portfleet-sung numbers, a slow, measured rising then falling guitar lead keeping pace as his almost-not-there vocals and the softest of tones call the titular image to mind just so. Credit as well to Van Portfleet's cover photos, which capture a sense of the hot, blasted Arizona where the album was recorded, at once abandoned and starkly beautiful. - Ned Raggett
After an acoustic EP under the Estraya moniker, Mike and Tara Vanportfleet return as Lycia. Where Lycia has always been known for it's heavily processed guitars and obvious (but well done!) drum machine programming, though, tripping back... retains the stark acoustic work of Estraya, adding the atmospheric keyboard treatments of previous Lycia offerings (some added by ambient artist, Steve Roach). The simple, stripped down music perfectly matches the raw, fragile honesty of the lyrics. This disc was recorded at a time when Mike and Tara were settling into a new life in Arizona after moving from the home they knew in Ohio. The sense of loss and uncertainty is palpable, the music lending itself to pale winter skies and night driving full of introspection. One feels as though they are reading a diary or privy to others' personal confidences. Painfully beautiful. Reading someone else's private thoughts might not be something most would enjoy, sort of like asking someone "How are you", and being given a much more involved answer than you were expecting. This is an excellent release and one you should check out if you are familiar with their older albums. - Don Hill
5 Stars | Just when we'd given up hope, here comes the long-awaited follow-up to Lycia's 1998 studio release Estrella. From the band that brought the genre "Darkwave" to the world, Tripping Back Into The Broken Days is a moving, dark, and emotionally wrenching release from Mike Vanportfleet and Tara VanFlower. I could say with all certainty that this may the most impressive release from Lycia since A Day In The Stark Corner. It is my hope that this release is just the beginning of the better things to come. Gone are the lyrics strewn with rain. From the album's opener "Broken Days" we are taken back to the shell of an empty home that meant so much to us in the past. As we wander through the musty rooms of "Asleep In The River" and "Give Up The Ghost" we are assaulted by visions of times come and gone. Everything seems so familiar, and yet so alien at the same time. A longing for the good times that used to mean so much to us in our innocence, but tinged with our memories of all the pain and sorrow we endured. Its production is fabulous, gracefully touched by the hands of Steve Roach. The lyrics are wonderfully crafted, and Lycia gives their best performance ever. What makes this release so difficult to listen to is that is knows exactly where to reverberate against you. It knows what haunts you and reaches out for it. It knows how to make you "feel" all that you have forgotten, sometimes for the best. And yet, despite how difficult and trying it can be to give up the ghosts of the past, we are still left with a feeling of hope in the album's closing tracks "Cat & Dog" and "Pale Blue Prevails." It's almost as if where "the darks skies prevail," as they did in "Grey Clouds" from the Lycia side-project "Bleak," we can see clearer to the future now that blue skies have returned. "I stand quietly, I absorb it all today, pale blue prevails.." from: "Pale Blue Prevails" This is an absolute must-have for everyone, no matter who you are, no matter where you are. -Poseidon
Arizona-based duo Lycia has made a name for itself in the last decade as one of the best of the so-called "darkwave" bands and a leading light in the post-Batcave Gothic rock movement. After seven albums and a multitude of side projects, Mike and Tara Vanportfleet retired from music a couple of years ago to pursue other things. The pull of the muse proved too strong, however, and with the release of Tripping Back Through the Broken Days, Lycia is back, hopefully for good. Sonically Broken Days is a departure from the group's previous work, as it concentrates less on postpunk rhythms and effects-heavy orchestration and more on acoustic guitars and ambient textures, with "timeroom treatments" by ambient star Steve Roach. The subdued atmosphere suits the subject matter, as the Vanportfleets cover the range of emotions brought about by illness, death, relocation, job loss and other real-life experiences. "Asleep in the River," "Broken Days" and "Gray December Desert Day" capture emotions stripped down to their essence, the sound of pure, unvarnished feeling. Lyrics like "Here I am once again/Just a shell of nothing" and "Sadness builds/I am done" may come off self-absorbed and melodramatic on the page, but the duo's subtle performances strip them of bombast, revealing them to be pure emotional expression. The only problem with this record is the lack of musical variety; after over an hour of languid, percussion-less, atmospheric guitar strumming, one can't help but feel that the band has started to repeat itself. In small doses, however, Tripping Back Through the Broken Days has real power. Michael Toland [buy it]
Several years ago, I asked a friend, "what would you consider to be the quintessential piece in your music collection?". He replied, "Lycia". Shortly after that conversion, I purchased A Burning Circle and Then Dust, and then quickly learned for myself the brilliance of Lycia. More recently, I was quite pleased to receive their latest work, Tripping Back into the Broken Days, for review. What I found upon spinning this CD was a less electronic Lycia than what I had previously heard. This dreamy, ambient recording provides clear vocals reciting romantic poetry set to lovely acoustic guitar. The theme, self-described as a sentimental journey across America, feels more to me as if Mike and Tara VanPortfleet have arrived home and discovered the raw beauty of the seasons of life and nature. After a two and a half year absence, Lycia is back with such extremely personal music that you almost feel a bit guilty hearing their emotions stripped so bare and with such brutal honesty. CD jacket photography, by Mike Vanportfleet, contributes a fitting pictorial tribute to the vanishing rural landscapes of America. The photography seems reminiscent of one of my favorite art books, "Farewell To Fond Memories" by R. Bradford Johnson. Lycia takes listeners on a restless sojourn through ghost towns and homesteads, through the "gentle breeze of the summertime", and "vacant winter days", and then lands you softly at home, "tripping back into the broken days". - Sonya Brown
Lycia has long been producing music that transcends the terrestrial landscape. The music is vast, expansive, and larger than life itself. Lycia's sound picks you up, carries you along for a beautiful, emotional ride, then gently brings you back to earth. Their new tracks follow this same path of exaltation and release, although the sound has evolved into a more simple stripped-down form. Lycia, as always, reaches into the darkest area of our soul and yet inevitably shows us hope. Lycia is a bright light, illuminating the darkness of the music world.
A great album of previously unreleased, acoustic Lycia material. Tara’s voice has never sounded sweeter between the melancholic twangs of guitar.
With the release of Tripping Back Into The Broken Days,
Lycia has broken new ground and continues to be unmatched, so good at their craft that no one has dared attempt to duplicate. Mike and Tara have returned from a retirement with a work so incredibly deep that it frostbites your soul. Although they have moved from their home in Ohio to the sunnier climes of Arizona the bitter cold of their former home has implanted itself into the psyche of their work. And this work has etched its way into my heart. Tara has said that this effort is deeply personal. Listening to the music, following the lyrics and allowing it to immerse me like a cold and thick fog has left me feeling frightened and alone. I shudder to think of the reality of the written words.
In our lives there is a fearful place to tread; we don't know the paths. In no body of work will you find the lost paths of life so effectively choked with the weeds of despair than you will in Lycia's previous works. This effort goes beyond that, stepping into the netherworld of hopelessness. With its subtle departure from a more dense fabric of unanswerable questions to that of a wispy and gossamer lace curtain blowing in a heated breeze, Tripping Back Into The Broken Days goes deep into the outer perimeters of sanity. Where there is no hope, no love, no wish, no understanding. There is only an acceptance of that which appears inescapable.The cold and singular strum of a guitar opens the song "broken days" shoving us into a cellar of desolation, with an outlook so bleak that even the broken days were glorious in comparison. "it's ok to be small", a conjured film of the mind that horrifies, commingling images of beauty, natural in its depiction, with that of illness and its natural progression, only to leave us with the unspooled film flapping in the reel. There is joy in the leaving of that which has brought much in the way of misery but pain in the parting of its beauty. There are spirits, lost in their wanderings. There is the ever present winter that freezes emotion. The music is achingly beautiful in its communication. The vocals of Tara VanFlower are masterfully sung, producing an effect that chills the marrow of our hearts. The lyrical output of Tripping Back Into The Broken Days" are effectively haunting in that they shower us with seclusion, allowing us to peek into lives that seemingly are as empty as the house on the cover. If there is redemption, it's in the dreams of "cat and dog". And while the sun does occasionally shine here, it is only to enhance the inner turmoil. I wish that I could hold and absorb a modicum of the anguish that emanates from the spoken words here, if only to free the trapped inhabitants of the nightmare for a fleeting moment but that would only serve to create a new song.
The disc features a tri-fold insert upon which are vivid colour photos of empty houses, bare trees and blue skies, expert metaphors. All the lyrics are here with track listing and credits. While there are no notes, the thoughts are easily disseminated by the lyrics and music itself. The platter that holds the CD depicts a picture of empty tracks; the disc itself cleverly contains a photo of a train that, when placed in the platter, is imposed enough over the track picture to metaphorically speak of escape.
This is an album of brilliance, singular in its meaning and cold to the touch. To be absorbed by it chills but it also thrills. Reviews should never be written where Lycia is concerned but rather essays. Lycia must never leave us. Their importance is underscored by this release. Thanks to Projekt and to Lycia for giving me the chance to touch something so precious. - Matt Rowe
| 10 out of 10 | Acoustic Ambient Darkwave | Two-and-half years of retirement may have been too long for Lycia fans, but it turns out to be the perfect amount of time off from the music of Lycia that Mike and Tara VanPortfleet needed to create another masterpiece. Stripped back to the simpler approach of luch ambient sound-beds driven by effortless acoustic guitar and the voices of both Tara and Mike, the songs created are visionary and thriving with sub-sonic ease, gripping in nature and float you through plains of sadness and despair. As in past Lycia works, the mood is melancholic and heartfelt, with just enough coldness to send shivers down your spine. But this a very different Lycia, with stories of personal heartbreak and isolation, alienation and hopelessness, love and dejection. Mike's soft whispery voice treated with just a touch of effects gives him an otherworldy quality that floats just above the blades of grass, as if the wind has been given a voice. Tara, on the other hand, sings like a fallen angel, drifting with broken wings and a broken heart, carrying with her a hope that is missing in Mike's vocal projection. There is an inner peace to be found on Tripping Back into the Broken Days, as Lycia put away all of your sadness and fears, allowing the burden of such pains to be lifted out of your soul and into the air. Lycia is back, and they sounds as good as they ever did. - Joseph Graham
Effectively ending their self-imposed retirement of two and one half years ago, we find Lycia once more alive and well for a time. With their new work Tripping Back into the Broken Days, we certainly find Lycia mainstay Mike Vanportfleet in a much more introspective and intense mood. This has to be the most focused and clearly defined album by Lycia since 1991's masterpiece Ionia. The songs on this album are composed of acoustic guitar, keyboards, odd sound effects here and there and some pristinely recorded vocals. Vanportfleet has never sounded so wraith-like as he does here. The lyrics are glimpses of their move from Ohio back to the Arizona desert which gave birth to Lycia back in 1988. With titles such as "Grey December Desert Day", "Broken Days" and "Vacant Winter Day" you get a feeling of wistful abandonment to one's fate. Indeed, an almost giddy premonition of disappointment and discontent abounds in bloom on this album. There are some happier spots provided by Lycia's other half Tara Vanportfleet. Most notably, "Cat & Dog" which ends with the refrain "and we are fine, and we are fine". This dispels the somewhat melancholy feel that dominates Tripping Back.... The progression of Tara's voice over the years (she joined in 1995) has been nothing short of a revelation. She really sounds amazing on this release, fully-formed and purposeful in her delivery and subject matter. Clearly, she has evolved beautifully as a vocalist and along with Mike's wonderfully raspy vocalizing and crystalline guitar work, I can only sing the highest praises for their triumphant return to the world. Welcome back, Lycia! - Peter Marks
After two well-compiled retrospective CDs of outtakes and rarities, Lycia has snuck up on Projekt fans with an unexpected full-length release of new material. Most of us were under the impression that Estrella
was the band’s final studio release, and that the husband and wife duo of Mike and Tara Van Portfleet had laid the long beloved darkwave outfit to rest. Thankfully, that is not the case as they have come out of their premature retirement and present us with Tripping Back Into The Broken Days
A simpler and more straightforward release, the instrumentation for …Broken Days is stripped down to merely acoustic guitar, wonderfully atmospheric synthesizers, and the usual alternating vocal duties between Tara and Mike. Longtime fans of Lycia have probably noticed the ongoing fraction between the broodier material Mike usually sings and the more mischievous and honeyed material written by Tara. As much as I enjoy Tara’s voice on a number of tracks throughout the band’s discography (especially the Burning Circle & Then Dust material) I have always been more partial to the tracks sung by Mike. With this release, I feel much the same. His smoky whisper has been the definitive characteristic of Lycia for well over a decade now, so despite the lack of reverberated drums loops and processed guitar playing, this is unmistakably easy to spot as Lycia.
I might suggest the vibe of the album is similar to that invoked by 80’s Floydian psychedelia, mixed with a tinge of Death In June in their Rose Clouds/Symbols Shatter prime. It has the same lush, floating quality to it courtesy of Tara’s delicate keyboard contributions, and overall, I would say it is a much more relaxed album than anything the band has released in the past. The atmosphere is not quite as claustrophobic or dark, giving the songs a bit more room to breathe.
Nonetheless, I can see many people digging this – listeners can sort of glide along through this CD. It doesn’t demand much other than patience, and it can be quite a delightful trip if in the right kind of open mindset. I think perhaps I have been a little too anxious as of late to really enjoy the first half of this album properly as it wasn’t until toward the end that my attention was fully captured. The pair of songs “Vacant Winter Day” and “Gray December Desert Day” gave me a much-needed shake, as both tracks illustrate that special kind of mood that only Lycia can successfully create. A very earnest darkness and desperation shapes these two songs, and both instantly recall and stand proudly among some of Lycia’s best work from the past. “Halfway Between Here And There” is another stand out track, with a superb vocal melody, perfectly swelling and fading with the warm enveloping synths and acoustic strums and along with the opening track “Broken Days” stand as the two strongest tracks that work best with and show the duo the most comfortable with the Lycia ‘unplugged’ format.
While this album didn’t move me as much as their past works, I am truthfully thankful that both Mike and Tara are back and doing what they do best. This is a soothing, tender and consistent release, sure to please fans of both Ethereal and perhaps Apocalyptic Folk. As Mike himself has said, “[This] is our purest release. All the trappings have been stripped away, and it’s just like it was when I started writing music back in the early ‘80s: acoustic guitars and vocals, with me trying to express and escape.” An intimate and vulnerable performance by both artists, Tripping Back Into The Broken Days may not have the same immediate stark and seductive appeal as other Lycia releases, but it is definitely a welcomed addition to their discography. - Matthew
A review from The Guardian (UK):
| 4 stars | Blending acoustic guitars, ghostly synthesiser backing and male and female vocals, Lycia make music to drift away to, writes Stuart Moses. But the streams the music flows down are melancholy, full of longing and regret. If you drift too far there is a certain amount of worry where the river will take you. Tara's voice reminds me of Hope Sandoval, or maybe Julee Cruise. Director David Lynch would do well to investigate Lycia's impressive back catalogue to soundtrack future movies. The band make music to accompany ghost stories told in deserted places. Mike's voice is deeper, yet no less enchanting and the use of both vocals stop the stripped-down sound from becoming too repetitive. Having said that, it seems wrong to draw any particular song into the light - so uniform is their sound they deserve to be listened to as a complete piece of work. The duo moved across America from Ohio to Arizona, from a cold and grey winter to the sun-baked desert and it is this journey which forms the theme for the album. Whether the places this music conjures up actually exist anywhere outside my imagination I can't tell you, but this road trip is one that you won't want to make alone.
A review from The Sentimentalist:
Stripped down acoustic, grey and gold | Once gone, but not forgotten, Lycia has resurrected themselves to create one of their most stirring works to date. Tripping Back matches icy ambience and sparse acoustic guitar with glowing, open lyrics to give the listener a slice of Americana at its most barren and deserted. Picture Lycia's fabric of life as a threadbare gingham curtain flapping in the window of a vacant farmhouse. Tara's vocals on tracks like "It's Okay to be Small" beckon with warmth, yet at the same time, maintain a certain distance as an airy, ghostlike memory. Mike's vocals are more chilling, drifting in and out of the songs as echoing lines from a lost diary. This is a CD to wrap yourself up in and experience as an atmospheric work of longing and escape. - MVW
SCORE: 89/100 | Here's a label I haven't received much from in the past. However, they have definitely got a good corner on the Darkwave music market, and this release showcases one of the best darkwave artists in the genre (at least that I've heard, and my knowledge is limited). All you will find here is acoustic guitars, ambient/atmospheric synths, and vocals. NO percussion, no techno oriented passages, no heavy guitar work. The formula is amazingly simple sounding, until you give repeated spins. This stuff is blindingly beautiful on one hand, but on the other you can hear some gloom, desolation, and bleak landscapes not only in the lyrics, but in the compositions as well. It's one of the things I love about music, the ability to have conflicting and contrasting styles within one song but somehow it all blends well together (see: the whole Gothenberg sound, and harsh black metal laced with lush keys and female vox). 'Broken Days' starts things off rather well, and the best way to describe one track is the best way to describe all, save for a few instances. They take turns on tracks alternating between one male and one female singer, though when you get into the CD on a deeper level, sometimes the female vocals seem too "beautiful" to convey the emotions of the music to perfection, however the same cannot be said of the male vocalist, who is ethereal, enchanting, and at the same time quite emotional and dark. 'Give Up The Ghost' gives a different take on the music, with the instrumentation taking on a rather spooky and eerie quality, though the female vocals at times don't hold up throughout the track. 'Vacant Winter Day' also carries the eternal gloom theme quite well, and I bet many Norweigan bands would really dig this track. As it stands, I could go on and on with details, but once you listen to 4 tracks, it's all made clear. I believe it takes a special kind of mood to enjoy this (sometimes a 12 song extravaganza is difficult to take in all in one sitting), though I have yet to find deep fault with the music. And for what it is, it's amazingly consistent though as I said it may be hard to digest at one sitting going through all 12 tracks. The artwork is incredible as well, conveying both beauty and sadness as well, it has to be seen to be believed!