Luke Hess: Light in the Dark

[12 November 2009]

By Timothy Gabriele

The dub rhizome, which encompasses a great deal of the “electronic” music spectrum, is generally not a springboard for religious thinking. Though often celestial-minded, dub-toned sonics seem to be guided by the rather cold logic of science than mysticism. Its telescopic probes seek to find echolocations of debris in the vast emptiness of space, which is generally thought to be a vortex of absence, inglorious and desacralized. 

Professed Christian Luke Hess’s choice to search in this zone for signs of God, seeking out Light in the Dark as his album calls it, should be commended for its boldness, if nothing else. What Hess arrives at, however, is an album of minimalist inflections of rubbery bass and reverberated detritus that has been well-traversed territory for over 10 years. Hess’s label, Echocord, specializes in finding variations on this formula that have distinct personality (Mikkel Metal’s recent Peaks and Troughs being an excelsior example). Hess, unfortunately, doesn’t distinguish himself much across these nine tracks, despite his varying BPMs, timbres, and dimensional echoplex graphing. 

Stripped to an anemic core, Hess’s music is at its best when he introduces small elements to his tech-house bumps that rescue individual tracks from genericness. “Meaning Matters” floats indiscernible robotic voices into its stratosphere, while “Transform” boasts an athletic pace whose plinky synths form a progression not unlike John Carpenter’s theme to Halloween. As you may have guessed, Hess’s song titles reflect his spirituality, so when he urges “Self-Control” on one track, there’s no doubt he lives this kind of discipline. Still, one can’t help feel he’s gone a little too ascetic on Light in the Dark. Perhaps these songs need less than other songs might, but they still feel like they’re missing something. It’s dark ground for a loving and illuminating God. It’s as if, in seeking for the light while wallowing in darkness, Hess found the twilight too fascinating to reject outright.

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