Lycia’s newest post-2010 release confirms that they are here to stay. While many titans of 90s darkwave have either disbanded or fallen by the wayside, Mike VanPortfleet and Tara Vanflower’s momentum over the past five years has shown ambition and the excavation of new sonic territory. They are a favorite of the PhxGoth staff (read our interview with Mike VanPortfleet here) 2013’s Quiet Moments may have been an exercise in softer, more gently ethereal textures, but 2015’s A Line That Connects harkens back to the 90s dirge and doom for which they became known, kicked up a few notches in heaviness to create heavy, brooding moods, the likes of which have never before been heard from the band. And people are taking notice, as this interview with Noisey indicates, and deservedly so: A Line That Connects is an album that deserves the utmost of attention.
The near 70-minute runtime of A Line That Connects navigates through an ever-somber landscape of stormy guitar wails, dripping cymbal taps, and VanPortfleet’s withdrawn croons and Vanflower’s delicate, fairy-like singing. Opener “The Fall Back” is a short overture of distorted guitar ambiance and bleeding synths over pounding, echoing drums, an atmosphere that is gradually taken down one step at a time as the album progresses through the despairing sigh of “Monday Is Here,” the serene acoustic strums on “Silver Leaf,” and the twinkling, wispy construction of “A Trade Out.”
One would be remiss to expect all of the tones on this album to reflect ambiance and quiet gloom, however, as Lycia instigate a significant change of pace midway-through the album. “An Awakening” indicates, well, an awakening within the record that was previously unthinkable. Vanflower’s wails, and deafening guitar riffs chug like an avalanche over exploding drums. This quickly gives way to the steady-paced Goth rock powerhouse called “The Rain,” complete with vocals that harken to the days of Andrew Eldritch and Ian Curtis. “Bright Like Stars” slows down the pace a bit but ramps up the intensity of the record, allowing blistering riffs and heavy bass to take prominence like lightning bolts stabbing through black clouds. “Illuminate” is a slow, dense march of death, with thunderous beats and Vanflower’s eerie, echoing repetition of “illuminate” over VanPortfleet’s whispers. The sheer massiveness of this track rivals Swans’ most relentless moments.
A Line That Connects has received comparisons to Lycia’s classic 90s albums Cold and Estrella. With David Galas rejoining the band after a hiatus, it seems fitting to put this album in the same league as those stone-cold underground classics. Quality, of course, comes first and foremost, and Lycia have crafted this album with meticulous attention to detail and the kind of care that can only come from a band that still has a lot to prove, even this long in the tooth. A Line That Connects is a towering monolith of wintry emotion, acknowledging Lycia’s past triumphs while forging ahead with crushing tapestries of wind-thrashed feelings and rain-soaked garments, wrapped in the package of gravitas that we all love them for. This album sets the bar for darkwave in 2015. A must-listen.