Light Pollution Light PollutionApparitions
On Mid West Hazecam’s website, we can witness the recorded birth of Light Pollution, a Chicago group (of the many, by the way, who have played and survived the SXSW festival) led by James Cicero. If we look up the aforementioned website, we’ll see the Chicago skyline in real time and a simulated comparison, a little lower down, of how the image would be if we eliminated the carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur, decomposing hydrocarbons and even flying chlorine particles (the main components of so-called “atmospheric pollution”) from our view. Fortunately we’re not forced to breathe these cancer-causing babies while we are listening to “Apparitions”, the debut album by Cicero and company, but we can sense a bit of static, like a blank channel frequency on an analogue television, which gives a touch of originality to the work at the same time that it shows a maturing style. We are looking at one of the most powerful debuts of the year, and we say that without fear or exaggeration: the influence of worshipped groups like Animal Collective touches on (and almost plagiarises) big historical groups (as we will see later), along with characteristics impossible to find on a second album (and third, and fourth, etc.) —freshness and spontaneity, taking two steps forward to show the listener what you’re really like. It’s an effort worthy of respect, even more so taking into account the almost perfect succession of songs that they offer us here.
Already in the beginning, the energetic “Good Feelings”, with its synthesised immobile riff, and “Oh, Ivory!”, the push of a grey day shows hints of shoegaze: vital pop dominates the composition in essence, but underneath all sorts of feedback sounds, reverbs and outer space atmospheres flutter about, a short distance from bands of today like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. A good demonstration of this is “Fever Dreams”, with a weightless beginning and a good combination of synthesised background and guitar notes: an excellent song in which the voices, during the choruses, are like a wall built on the basis of beats of a drum that keep accelerating. Did I mention reverbs before? They are uncalled-for on “Bad Vibes”, with a voice dressed up like an echo in darker surroundings. It’s curious how Light Pollution use the guitar as an ambiental discursive element. That is to say, the notes that they play with it serve to give colour and texture to the musical background more than to outline melodies (by the way, what an intense ending this song has). Of course doing things this way recalls other groups of James Cicero’s, along with the question: how would those groups have done it? “All Night Outside” is what Coldplay would have liked to have composed if they were that good. The “guitar solo” versus “ambiental, but aggressive reverbs” battle is won by the latter, and this means that the band takes its chances with grimmer sounds, although they are open at a second listening. This is what happens with good albums, and good bands. Like Pink Floyd. We could think we’re listening to Roger Waters in the verses of “Deyci, Right On”. It meets all of the structural requirements - a spacey instrumental beginning, joined by a drum with a drumroll before the “electronic orchestra” takes over, with the voices relaxing. You can feel the same compassionate sadness as in some songs of the Heads of Psychedelics and Symphonic-Progressive Rock. The crescendo ends as well with a relaxing electronic bubbling. White glove. Special mention goes to the retro “Drunk Kids”, with the sound broken as if Cicero were standing very close to the mic. The back-up voices are extended, running into a wave of sound. Do I see The Beach Boys out of the corner of my eye?
Definitively, shoegaze, for better or for worse, with its more noise tendencies or its flirtation with dream pop, has a wide range of followers in groups like Annuals, Deerhunter or Menomena. But Light Pollution show themselves to be in an upper league suddenly, as if someone had planted them there. They have put out a great album. For now, they are winning by several goals, and aren’t giving up the goal of honour. The last cut, “Witchcraft”, continuing with the football analogy, fulfils the saying that “in football there are no small rivals.” Here we can extrapolate it as “there are no minor songs.” This song uses a tachycardiac piano with electronic add-ons as the path, and if they only showed us the way, we would already be fortunate listeners. But they don’t stop there: they add an uninhibited epic that will seem egocentric to some, but which isn’t at all. It seems to be more of a reflection of what the songs transmit to us. I share the epic. I give up.