It’s easy to be cynical with regards to re-releases. Sure, a lot of albums benefit from new and crisper audio quality, but in the back of your mind there’s always that question. Is this just a cop-out of a release? Lycia’s The Burning Circle and Then Dust
is in no way a cop out. In fact on your first listen you may just wash away those cynical thoughts about re-masters altogether. Silber owes a debt of honour to Lycia, the goth dark-wave group from Arizona. In fact on the website they pretty much decree that their love of great music and the want to start a record label is indebted to the band. And who can blame them?
Lycia has the brooding energy and romantic swoon of a three hundred year old vampire and while sadly departed in 1999, band member’s solo work (particularly founders Tara VanFlower and Mike VanPortfleet) continue in the post punk experimental vein that Lycia began. With this in mind it’s no wonder Silber is excited to re-release their 1995 album.
The Burning Circle and Then Dust is truly an album that has to be listened to from start to finish, its whimsical guitars and haunting atmospheric vocals combined with an early art rock use of synths craft a wave of songs that flow effortlessly and captivate you in doing so. “A Presence in the Woods” begins the immersion of the listener with a collaboration of voice and instrument to produce an abyss of textures that you’ll be tenderly charmed into. A few tracks later “Wandering Soul” dances elegantly along, bringing subtle folk elements into the dark wave mix, albeit tormented variations of folk, more akin to apocalyptic subgenres then what many would recognise as falling within the pure field itself.
It’s hard to find a stand out track on such a large scale album, with many great songs gently grabbing your undivided attention each and every time, but “On the Horizon” is arguably a paramount point due to is brilliantly lucid guitar riff that sways from early dream pop sounds to pure dark wave. This combined with ghostly synth notes conjures an instrumentally passive moment in the eighteen track album and one filled with consistency. “Silence and Distance” should also be mentioned as should “Nine Hours Later”: both are powerful tracks, classic both in sound and mood.
Clearly The Burning Circle and Then Dust is as potent an album now as it was back in 1995. An album bubbling over with haunting song after haunting song while showing early experimentations with sound that would become fleshed out subgenres in later years. Fans of Goth, Dark wave, Post-punk and Art Rock need look no further then the mastery that was Lycia. -Michael Riley
Mike VanPortfleet has taken on an important task in that he has begun to remaster the standing catalogue that is the legacy of Lycia. Lycia, as fans will know, is the serious audio equivalent of disparity, as bleak as the darkest corner can get. In the vast world of music, the world of ambient tones is as expressive as it gets. VanPortfleet’s Lycia projects have explored those tonalities as if they were the very flesh of emotion and therefore are made manifest by their very musical nature. Some may question the reality of music here but those that do is likely not in tune with themselves, preferring only the manufactured strum of a guitar, the structured beat of a drum, or the pretty vocals of skilled singers to the barrage of fear that is inherent in Lycia’s tonal expressions.
Many of Lycia’s fans will have their favourites. Mine is the band’s very visceral Cold album, a title that is soon to be accorded the same remastering respect that has already been visited upon Estrella and now, The Burning Circle and Then Dust. This album, originally released by Projekt Records as a 2-album recording, has been restructured to an original core concept. When originally released, the band consisting of Mike VanPorfleet, David Galas, and vocalist, Tara Vanflower, had recorded additional songs resultant of good vibes in the studio. Those additional songs (10 in all) had been intended to be released separately but ultimately found their way into the collection of The Burning Circle and Then Dust. For this revisitation, VanPortfleet desired to restore the potency of the original vision.
For the unknowing, Lycia conjures ambient collections of majestically cascading music, that is minimal yet effectively shocking in their presentation. With an unrelenting storm of tones and a barely discernable vocal, Lycia approximates the burgeoning of despair with all the subtlety of blows to the skull from the rounded curve of a ball-pean hammer. Pioneers such as Tangerine Dream helped create the sounds of electronic atmosphere but Lycia advanced it to the next 3 stages and have yet been unmatched in the realities the music conveys – dread, fear, and underlying depravity.
The remaster of The Burning Circle and Then Dust and the removal of the additional songs go a long way in effectively communicating the music to the ears as well as maintaining the structure of the entire piece. If you have heard Cold, an album that comes after Burning Circle, then you can appreciate the new core that makes up this re-release. The flow is now undisturbed by tracks that slip out of the element of the original vision of the album therefore leaving a perfection that is a hint of the coming remastered Cold album. -Matt Rowe