Album Review: Light Asylum

13 May 2012 | 4:34 pm | Chris Familton

An often confrontational listening experience amid the pseudo-industrial synth primitivism.

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The debut album from New Yorkers Light Asylum follows their well-received 2010 In Tension EP and finds Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello positing their songs in a colder and harsher sonic environment.

Funchess is still the absolute drawcard with a voice that can sound like any and everyone from Neneh Cherry and Grace Jones to Ian Curtis and Sisters Of Mercy's Andrew Eldritch. There's little sugarcoating in her delivery as she barks, shrieks and intones her lyrics in every way possible, making for a varied and often confrontational listening experience amid the pseudo-industrial synth primitivism.

Musically Light Asylum's sound is firmly placed in the late-'70s and early-'80s, most notably at the junction when synths became affordable and began to be integrated into pop music via acts like Depeche Mode and Cabaret Voltaire. The sparse application of these sounds lends the music an innocence and naive euphoria, empowering Funchess to take centre stage. Angel Tongue is a mid-record highlight strangely recalling Men Without Hats' Safety Dance in Funchess' timbre and melodies over a bubbling and repetitive Kraftwerkian backdrop. A Certain Someone, which appeared on their EP and is re-recorded here as A Certain Person, also impresses with its whinnying horses, stratospheric chorus and synthetic funk.

Unfortunately, for every moment of greatness there are also misfires where the soul has been drained from the music and the humanistic elements replaced with machines. It makes for an overly dystopian nightmare mood with brittle drum machines and coarse synth stabs and while it works effectively on some occasions, too often the effect is abrasive. Rather than being underdone this is an album that feels overdone and an opportunity lost.

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