LIGHTNING BUG – ” A Colour Of The Sky “

Posted: July 18, 2021 in MUSIC
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Lightning Bug have wrestled with the fragile alchemy of the artistic process. On their third album, the billowing A Colour of the Sky,” vocalist Audrey Kang zeroes in on a fascination with self-discovery through song, contemplating music’s ability to illuminate deeper truths in both its author and receiver, and artistic labour’s unlikely transfiguration into bliss. Underneath the record’s enveloping shoegaze swoon, these quiet musings bring us close enough to feel the vulnerable intimacy of its creation.

A Colour of the Sky” is the New York group’s most direct and fully rendered work to date: It’s a beautiful collection of songs paying direct homage to the dreamy atmospheres, curling synthesizers, and blown-out guitars of slow-burning art rock of bands like Mazzy Star, Cocteau Twins and blistering shoegaze greats Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. Yet Lightning Bug re-imagine this cannon in the context of an entirely new plot. Like a Creation Records fan fiction, a ’90s 4AD reboot, or a shoegaze memoir, “A Colour of the Sky” builds upon a familiar palette, reconfiguring foundational sounds .

Lyrically, the album amounts to an extended meditation on the struggle inherent in the creative process. “If I empty me of all myself, am I a vessel or a shell?/Mining for the substance in the dark and precious well/Pour out my convictions till I’m hollow as a bell,” Kang sings on “Song of the Bell.” Her voice’s delicate confidence tells its own story. The record’s driving momentum and spiritual haze simultaneously pit enchantment and disillusionment against each other. The evolution from simple song to sonic universe is almost always made clear by each track’s gradually intensifying production, effectively mimicking this dialogue. Most songs build upward from a quiet voice and an acoustic guitar, drum, or synth into a sea of lulling feedback and fluttering ambience, direct conversations bleeding out into layered fantasies. Each song has a brief moment when the whimsical textures dissipate, and Kang is left alone, looking directly into the mirror.

“When you’re playing or writing a song, you have to enter your own little world to access it. I think that’s another way of ‘coming back to yourself,’” Kang has said. Kang articulates this dance on opener “The Return”: “But as I starе into the heart of my own twisting fire/The songs yet to be written flock around me like a choir.” She reckons with the need for the work of others to communicate her own feelings: “I turn to poetry/I turn to the books I read/To say what I mean,” she whispers on the album’s title track. She interrogates the phenomenon of the phantasmagoria, how signifiers can feel more real than what they remind us of: “How colours feel stronger and feelings so true/That even the flowers smell more like you.” Narrating the process of searching for the self through song, A Colour of the Sky feels like a surreal ride-along to the creative process. Even so, it can be difficult to make out these lyrics through their quiet exhaled delivery behind a haze of effects, like pulling back a curtain only to reveal a cloud.

Listening to A Colour of the Sky can feel, at times, like playing all of your favourite shoegaze, alt-rock, and dream-pop records sounds at once. Moments feel plucked directly from their source, recontextualized as subtle elegies to the loyal comforts of a treasured record collection. From the Bends-era heavy chords of “I Lie Awake” to the Loveless-like harsh whisper-squeals of “Song of the Bell” to the patient Talk Talk tribute “The Chase,” a collage of lush synth tones and fuzzy warmth orbits each track like an atmosphere, evaporating into thin air, and drifting away like a memory.

A Colour of the Sky’s” immersive textures beckon, while its meta-aware poetry keeps the listener at a distance. Yet Kang’s attempts to demystify the nature of song writing somehow pull us in closer, providing a glimpse into the process of creation. Lightning Bug’s ability to transform the vulnerability and struggles of producing meaningful art into a gorgeous and deeply affecting record is its own sort of magic trick. 

Lightning Bug’s new album ‘A Colour of the Sky’ out now.

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