[12 February 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Have you ever wondered what Thom Yorke’s sweeping vocals might sound like backed by shoegazers My Bloody Valentine? Have you ever wondered what the Cure might have sounded like if they had signed to the 4AD record label? Well, here’s your chance. Brooklyn producer the Tower of Light (he appears to mysteriously only go by that moniker) puts diverse elements into his sonic stew and hits blend on his debut album. A record that was reportedly four years in the making, The Tower of Light is everything all at once: shoegazery dream pop, darkly hued goth, glitchy electronica. Not a stone goes unturned here. Which makes the album somewhat of a slight disappointment. The weak link is the singer’s voice, which is practically a warble on opening cut “Cap Grass”. Things tend to get better vocally as the album progresses, but the damage has pretty much been done with hysterics of a voice with limited range trying to sweep and swoon as it does on that first song.
That’s not all that’s deficient with the record. The Tower of Light is fairly monotone, with each song sounding almost exactly like a carbon copy of the last over its 30-minute duration. It’s not a bad song, but there’s very little variation. An upbeat track or two might have given this eight-cut album a bit of a lift. Still, what elements are left aren’t entirely all that bad in a moody, late-night atmospheric kind of way. The songs caress the listener with their dreamy gloominess, and there are moments when the Tower of Light, producer and musician, comes across as a bedroom Brian Wilson. It’s just unfortunate that these songs really aren’t teenage symphonies to God, and just percolate along at their own laborious, snail-like pace. Atmosphere may count for one thing, but having actual songs that can be distinguished from each other is another. All in all, The Tower of Light is a middling success, and it can be, at times, rather boring to hear with its droney “been there, done that” tremolo bending guitar lines and icy cold synth lines. It’s surprising that this took so long to put together. Maybe if the Tower of Light tried releasing a record on a deadline, maybe something more affecting could happen.