Light Asylum - Light Asylum
By: Rob Gannon
When Brooklyn it-girl Shannon Funchess and her synth-playing cohort Bruno Coviello let fly their aggressive In Tension EP last year the smart money wasn’t on the pair becoming a singles band. That said the release nevertheless peaked around an explosive centrepiece in the form of “Dark Allies”. Similarly, and perhaps confirming the development, the long-playing debut is also dominated by one breath-taking track and although “Shallow Tears” unquestionably owes a sizeable debt to Joy Division‘s “Atmosphere” it’s wonderfully powerful stuff all the same that is totally owned by Funchess’s chilling baritone scale to close.
It’s no surprise then that again Funchess is thrust forward as the Light Asylum focal point, Coviello building his stark darkwave structures around her deep register and soulful asides. Yet there’s often a nagging feeling of over-reliance on her to save or salvage the material, which is sometimes precisely what she does turning in a neat 30 seconds to close the otherwise aimless, unimaginative repeats of “Angel Tongue” for example. Elsewhere though, a general lack of spark plagues the dull, butch-but-camp new wave Goth of “Hour Fortress”. Lost on a sea of drum programmes and skittery synths “Heart Of Dust” lacks both bile and appeal. Ironically enough, “Sins Of The Flesh” too also doesn’t have anywhere near enough meat on its bones and is downright boring as a result.
“Shallow Tears” aside, it’s not all bad news however. “Pope Will Roll” and “IPC” successfully combine blunt dance moves with the fizz of utilitarian industry and evocative themes of black religion. More brutal still, its cheesy sci-fi battle cry excluded, the NIN-like intensity and attention-grabbing sirens of “At Will” couldn’t be further from Funchess’s name-establishing work with TV On The Radio et al. The lighter, more optimistic closer “A Certain Person” (equally of the In Tension EP) shines too with stabs of sunbeam synth and a curious line of equine percussion.
Though Light Asylum’s better moments undeniably steady the ship as they go they also leave a bitter aftertaste of what could have been, for feeding on scraps in between masterpieces could soon get very frustrating.
Advised downloads: “Shallow Tears” and “Kill At Will”.
Light Asylum is out now on Mexican Summer.