[reviewed by / autor recenzji: Peter Marks || ENG]
Well hello again Lycia, nice to have you back after 11 years. Unlike “Tripping Back Into the Broken Days”, this is an honest to god Lycia album. As much as I enjoyed “Estraya”, I know VanPortfleet’s baby when I hear it and this boys and girls is the genuine article. He’s quite possibly the most reluctant front man I know of, I say this due to the immense volume of interviews he’s done. Aside from a recent one I dug up on youtube, the last time I heard anything out of this guy in the press would have been in 1993 when Music From the Emtpy Quarter put out the “Ghafran” book/compilation. And while so many others enjoyed their soapboxes and petty intrigues, Mike VanPortfleet wanted nothing more than to be left alone. So of course, he proved the most interesting to try and keep tabs on.
So many love to speak about this band, to pigeonhole them into styles and genres. I’d never have the audacity to do this, you see, Lycia’s second and third albums are about as mercurially perfect as it gets. You won’t find darkly, chaotic nihilism given a better stage to shine on than what this band did in the early 90s. Any attempt to categorize them beyond that is just plain stupid. Now I’d read the teasers about “Quiet Moments” being a return to those days; I did not believe it and refused to consider it possible. Oh but as a famed song says “I was wrong, I was wrong to ever doubt…”
“Quiet Moments” has the resigned contempt of “A Day in the Stark Corner”, it has the viciously caustic misanthropy of “Ionia” but it also has something neither of those albums ever could have: maturity. Because while it is easy to live in the past and try to re-create it, Lycia chose to bring the story forward into more contemporary settings. If you have ever had a job where you work before the sun comes up, this record is for you. Those coldly brittle pre-dawn skies full of fading stars come through effortlessly. As much as I loved growing up hearing his work, it’s even nicer to see how his life has turned out. It’s no joy-fest on here but it isn’t the despair of songs like “Fate” or “Daphne”, either. Someone’s settled down and now has a family which if I’d been told of this eventuality way back when I’d have laughed uncontrollably.
But times change, as do people. Lycia’s new album is a reflection of this and it is about as much of VanPortfleet as you’ll ever get on record. He just doesn’t give a lot away and for you people who glean his lyrics looking for some kind of insight just quit now. They’re not what you think they are and neither are they.
Lycia have often been dragged down by a particularly spooky characterization the press seem to so enjoy dishing out, but I’ll say it loud and clear just as I did playing “Ionia” for friends back in 1991: this isn’t goth. It’s dark, it’s droning and it’s dour at times but goddammit put away the crushed velvet and spider webs. There’s no wallowing crybaby bullshit going on here. Some of what is on “Quiet Moments” hearkens back to “Monsoon I” and “II” , other reference points would include the grinding menace of “Granada” or the slow-burning malice of “Sorrow is Her Name”. These are just markers, however, “Quiet Moments” is no simple re-tread. The last three songs on here could form their own EP.
They all either contain the word dead or some variant of it and they are quite easily the most experimental compositions VanPortfleet has yet done as Lycia. Tara sounds positively possessed on this record’s closer. The sort of vocals you’d figure someone thrown down a well would provide. Mike’s own voice is back to the rasping whisper which he and he alone can deliver. To each their own you may say, but it wouldn’t be Lycia without this. The guitar work I encounter keeps pulling me back time and time again. What must his effects pedal collection look like at this point!? I think outside of a certain Irishman, there’s isn’t another guitarist out there who is so easily recognizable. We’re talking one or two notes here, if that.
I’ve pondered for some years now just why it is that Lycia are the enigmatic ensemble they are. Is it the lack of interviews, the obelisk of a website they have, their refusal to rush things and follow a schedule… no, I think after all this time I’ve figured out why Lycia is so special. Dumas once wrote of one of his characters: “Everyone was striving to have the honor of speaking with him, as always happens with people who speak little and never say a word without value.”
Quality over quantity triumphs every time.