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Light Asylum

In Tension

(Mexican Summer; US: 14 Jun 2011; UK: 2 Aug 2011)

You’re not likely to mistake Light Asylum’s music on In Tension as something insincere or ironic. This is stone-serious, and often intense, electro-goth music, and these four songs stretch out with a haunting and shuddering scope. Drum machines pound, and synthesizers seethe through these tracks, and over them, Shannon Funchness, the lead singer, is a force. Her delivery has all the piss-and-vinegar gravitas of Nick Cave, but her range is otherworldly. She starts off sounding like a subterranean, androgynous soul singer on “A Certain Person” before shifting to a rumbling pout on “Knights and Week Ends”. For all the darkness behind her, though, each song manages to soar in its shadowy way. But as exciting as this mix of sounds seems at first, it becomes ham-handed the more it sticks around. Between Funchness’s singing and the groaning size of these songs, they’re self-serious enough, but when she insists you “nail me to the cross in the darkest alley” without blinking an eye, it feels pretty melodramatic. And while the wild-horse neigh that loops through “A Certain Person” offers an interesting counterpoint to all this industrial clatter, the lazers shooting through “Dark Allies” sound pretty cartoonish in comparison. Funchness and her bandmate Bruno Coviello don’t lack for fresh ideas on In Tension, but the more you listen, the more it becomes clear that they are so fascinated with their own sound, and its assumed power, that there’s not much room to let the listener into it too.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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17 Dec 2012
The antithesis of the most disappointing albums of the year, these records that had no business impressing us as much as they did.
2 Aug 2012
Based on its individual components, Light Asylum is pretty excellent. However, when conglomerated into a cohesive whole, a rut of repetition plagues what is otherwise a noteworthy debut.
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