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Lightning Dust - Lightning Dust

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Artist: Lightning Dust

Album: Lightning Dust

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Jul. 11, 2007

Taking a low-key break from Black Mountain, singer Amber Webber and instrumentalist Joshua Wells direct their new project, Lightning Dust, down dusty back roads. There, they dig up a passel of emotive piano-and-strum songs that are generally a world away from the relative chaos of Black Mountain's stoner whirlwind.

The album's cover, a carnivalesque picture of a red-curtained stage with a lone grand piano, signals a theatrical offering. Instead of torch-songs, however, these 10 tracks fall firmly under rustic folk (no matter how much piano they throw at us).

There are definite high points here. Webber's vocals, though overly dependent on vibrato for effect, are quite pretty, and particularly fit the more melancholy tunes. The instrumentation, primarily stripped down to piano and strummed guitar, is able enough, though it really serves to support the vocals more than draw attention to itself.

Oddly, the songs that lie furthest apart are the most successful. "Wind Me Up" is so much poppier than the rest of Lightning Dust that it sticks out, but the well-done vocal harmony over the stomping rhythm makes for a fun, if light-weight, summer song. At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum is "Take Me Back," a very slow, atmospheric piece. The pulsing bass and church-like organ are content to provide a current for Webber's best vocals. "Highway" is another worthy of mention, its very pretty vocals and piano accented nicely by cello; the atmospheric reverb that comes and goes on Webber's voice is well-placed.

Elsewhere, things get bogged down and never quite recover. "Heaven" is almost there, with a ghostly feel that should work, but the song never quite gels. The chorus is strong, but the song somehow feels incomplete. "Castles and Caves" feels as though it was intended to be the album's centerpiece, but its stark simplicity simply can't support it over the five minutes. It doesn't help that it's one of the cases where Webber's vocal affectations call too much attention to themselves.

At just over half an hour, this album should breeze by, but instead the best songs stick out amidst a slow blur. Languid, minimal songs are a difficult trick to pull off consistently, and Lightning Dust is a case in point.

By Mason Jones

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