The first in a splendid line of albums
Micah Newman | Fort Worth, TX United States | 05/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Well, maybe not the "first", depending on how you fit "Wake", which was recorded earlier but not released until much later, into the big picture. In any case, _Ionia_ probably serves as the best starting point for becoming acquainted with the vast soundscape of sculpted time and space that is the music of Lycia. I first got this album purely on my reading of the customary purple-prose description in the Projekt catalog, which made me expect something like Red House Painters, without really having any idea what it was like. So I ordered it in the mail, and once I got it, gave it quite the wrinkle of the nose when the opening peals of the title song poured out of the speakers. I immediately imagined myself turning it in used to my local independent record sore for a quick buck back on my investment, not taking very well to the apparent "gothic" bombast I was presented with. But listening to it the whole way through, I found a couple of songs I liked right away; the grandiose "This Moment," and the closer "Distant Eastern Glare." And as that song faded off to close the album, I began to understand what Lycia is about. Once again, some will dismiss them as "gothic", but that's not really who they are (although "they" in this case was really "he"; as Lycia at this point was actually a one-man band consisting of Mike Vanportfleet). Lycia's music is a very consistent, honest set of subtle emotional landscapes built on yearning, thoughtful, reflective music. Mike's vocals are the most unique thing about Lycia - whispered, husky, and mysterious; simple yet embodying very fully the singular blend of the harsh and the soothing - not unlike life itself - which defines Lycia's music. The vocals may well put you off the first time you hear them, but give it time, as I had to do, and it all makes sense. Lyrically there are certain key words and phrases which pop up repeatedly throughout all of Lycia's songs, enough so that it would be easy to jump on and criticize, but I think the consistency and willingness to stick with variations on a theme works really well for them (as I've mentioned in my other Lycia reviews). Towards the beginning of the album are the most heavily thematic songs, such as the title song and the archetypal anthem "Desert", then the middle section is thick with sweeping instrumentals, almost like film themes. Then it closes with three extremely good songs that are somewhat more intimate and personal in nature; "Granada" paints a grey watercolor scene of evocative memory and association, "The Realization" is a satisfying, comforting testimony of self-knowledge and acceptance, and then the aforementioned "Distant Eastern Glare" wraps it all up very nicely. Lycia's appeal is probably a bit esoteric and undoubtedly some people won't "get" it, and I wouldn't fault them for that, but I for one am extremely glad I stumbled across this excellent band."
One of the Best Albums Ever
Dancing Ganesha | Bangalore, India | 02/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... This is one of the best cds I have ever listened to. Even though the songs tend to be of a "dreary" nature, at the same time there is still a glimpse of hope in the music, a visionary quality that goes beyond just total despair, unlike many of LYCIA's contemporaries. There is more character and fullness, more depth to this cd than most "gothic" groups can proclaim. The first song, Ionia, does a balancing act between minor keys, hypnotic synth drum patterns and a blanket of Byzantine, stylized guitar chords. With whispered breathless vocals "As I lose control...she clings to me, she won't let go...she's tainted me, I'm nothing now, I'm so obscured, I'm conquered...and then I feel myself decline in the grip of Ionia..." There is a dreamy, sensual, yet otherworldly quality to this song which can never be equaled. I would say Ionia is worth the price of the cd alone.Next song, A Brief Glimpse, is very moody, dark, and intense. There is no way to describe it, because it is unlike anything ever heard. The vocals are like the incessant drum patterns: "Violence is so beautiful in the blink of an eye...and change is good..."November is a very relentless gothic masterpiece which does sound like a soundtrack, as another reviewer stated. Very beautiful, on the verge of being angelic, but not quite so. Lycia is too dark to allow for any sugarplum faerieness to imbibe their works.Fate is driven by a blanket of exotic, melancholy guitars, a sad, but dreamy song, with a hopeful edge to it. Spellbinding.Desert is probably one of the best songs on this album. It is just too gorgeous for words. The vocals are about someone retreating to the desert to "purify" himself of the world and its associations. Absolutely mesmerizing, along with droning guitars. The opening lines/music: "I reflect...just everything..." is a masterpiece in itself...I believe though, that this song has been slightly altered in the new cd release and is not as good as the original (perhaps I am mistaken, but the echoes are a bit more empasised on this recording).Renewal is a good piece. A more mellow transition between Desert and This Moment.This Moment is another dark song, more like a spell, with echoing drum patterns, thunderous effects, and bell gongs. I also believe this song has been slightly altered from the original though, and I wonder if it's just me or whether it HAS changed. Monsoon, Monsoon II are both great instrumentals, although I listen to these less than the other songs on here. Slightly mellow, with a synth edge, it has a lighter atmosphere to it, and probably sounds a lot like Tangerine Dream, in some regards.Granada is pure gothic splendour with a dreamy, Spanish passion. It reminds me of a decaying, ancient castle on a hillside, as its dark tenants regard the outside world with a sense of lost hope and recognition of impending doom and irreversible damage and sadness. "Oh Granada I see, from the land to the sea like a bird in the sky I stare down on your view oh Granada are you slipping away?"The Realization is a bittersweet song with a lush melody and longing sensation: "That great white smile, takes me away..." (I believe this is what the lyrics are), very melancholy, but ending in a very self-aware mood of quiet resignation combined with a strange self-mysticism.Distant Eastern Glare is an exotic piece with synth drum patterns and blankets of guitars once again highlighted. Mike's voice alternates between dark and light: "Cold air, distant eastern glare. . ." to the beautiful lines: "Come to me, out from the glare, you're so adored, you're so adored. . ." embellished with spooky guitars which seem to sing along with Mike's beautiful voice."
Haunting, capturing the desert in song
blue123 | deserted desert | 03/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a longtime fan of Lycia and I think its high time they were recognized for the beauty they create! This album takes the stark, mysterious desert as a theme throughout most of its songs. Its wonderfully dark and dreamy. Buy it, listen to it, love it. I have never been disappointed with Lycia's work. Try Estrella and Wake as well, hope you like them!"