| Artist: Mike VanPortfleet|
CD Title: Beyond the Horizon Line
Label: Silber Records
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
With the final release of the long-awaited Empty Space album, the members of Lycia did something they'd been threatening for years. The legendary underground band was put to rest, and the casket was closed. However, it wasn't the end of the story. Lycia founder and cornerstone Mike VanPortfleet has now returned with his first post-Lycia solo album, Beyond the Horizon Line. Shedding Lycia's guitar-oriented ethereal post-punk sound for ambient electronics, VanPortfleet has managed to evolve artistically and create a new, unique sound rather than simply recording a Lycia album under his own name.
Largely favoring swirling, spacious, metallic atmospheric soundscapes over traditional compositions, the album's dark, foreboding atmosphere and full, layered sound sometimes provide something of an airier, more abstract, less claustrophobic counterpoint to VanPortfleet's past. Its sound is largely built on subtlety; repetitive foundations brought to life through delicate ebbs and flows. VanPortfleet also shows remarkable control over spatial elements. Reverb-drenched sounds often dissolve into more abstract, airy "breaths" that flow outward to create a shell around the songs' more concrete elements. The album's forays into minimalism often yield results that sound just as powerful and full as its more layered and complex offerings.
Despite the painfully obvious differences in both sound and approach, elements of VanPortfleet's past work still bubble just beneath the surface of Beyond the Horizon Line's more electronic, loop-based, largely instrumental set. Familiar programmed percussion lies buried under the ambience of "Deep in the Morning Sun", "Unsettled New Day", and "Stellar Shower Begins" as well as "Stellar Buckshot Awaits", which also prominently features VanPortfleet's trademark reverb-drenched whispered vocals and Lycia-esque lead guitar. At other times, VanPortfleet wears his influences on his sleeve. "Echoes of the Lost Sea", for example, could just as easily have been culled from Black Tape for a Blue Girl's A Chaos of Desire, while the sound-sculpting of Steve Roach, who worked on the production of Lycia's Tripping Back Into the Broken Days, seems to have left its own indelible impression.
In the end, Beyond the Horizon Line is really sort of a blend of the past and present; subtle hints of VanPortfleet's past projects and influences buried beneath a new musical voice and his own current musical sensibilities and penchant for sonic experimentation. Whether VanPortfleet is subtly manipulating a pre-existing vast sonic universe or building an entire wall of sound with a mere twig and half a nail, the album's ten tracks display impressive artistry and veteran skill without losing track of substance and emotion. Considering the fact that Lycia's diverse fan base ranges from the ambient/ethereal crowd to goths to metal fans, this decidedly more electronic ambient/ethereal offering most certainly won't please everyone and will likely prove a bit too monotonous and abstract for VanPortfleet's more rock/metal-oriented fans. However, fans of ambient music, whether familiar with VanPortfleet's work or not, will likely find Beyond the Horizon Line to be quite exceptional.
Lycia website: www.lyciummusic.com
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