Before discussing the latest album from Lycia called Quiet Moments, perhaps we should first delve into the genre of “darkwave.” I can already imagine some of the responses to the request, being, “I didn’t know there was a genre called darkwave,” and “oh god, not another genre.” While it does seem like any slight and vague musical eccentricity demands it’s own classification now, whether warranted or not, darkwave merits the division. While electronic in nature, it is not dance music. It focuses primarily on creating a mood but retains melodies, so it isn’t ambient or drone. It leans toward the somber and contemplative side so it is neither fully industrial with its metallic bite, nor fully goth with an overabundance of purple poetry, though it certainly can straddle the two extremes. It’s certainly not new age, although the focus on the instrumental portion over the vocal portion is consistent with it. That’s a lot of things that darkwave is not.
At its best, it is demanding but not boring. It requires the listener to listen and to participate in the mood as textures build, one on top of another. It is, in many respects, observational. Lycia has been at this for some time and are probably one of the most recognizable names in the style. Quiet Moments doesn’t seek to change Lycia’s place in that — no big, thumping intrusions or unexpected additions of incongruous instruments — and that could pose a problem for longtime listeners who aren’t that interested in the overall ethic of this music. For myself, I have no problem with it and I think a majority of listeners who would be so inclined wouldn’t either.
That’s not to say the record doesn’t flirt with the edge of being too much of itself for it’s own good. The last three tracks are “Dead Leaves Fall,” “Dead Star, Cold Star” and “The Soil Is Dead.” Immediately you are presupposing a morbid trance-like trio rather than what the disc is overall (at least in my own opinion). In fact, these three are a slight tonal shift from the rest of the album, but not a severe one. Overall, the recording is a rumination of wintertime. This is not the stuff of holly-jolly sleigh bells and horse pucky on the new-fallen snow. It is a musical interpretation of that sensory experience of wintertime, long snows that seem to sap the sound out of everything else including birds in the distance or wildlife in the woods. This is the sound of things freezing and going dormant.
In a sense, it is the musical allusion to other things, specifically in growing older and becoming distanced from your past and the people in it. Again and again in the lyrics you are led to the conclusion that the people in your old childhood photos, the places you know, and the evidence that those ever existed have likewise frozen. You have your memories and even those are growing static and untrustworthy. When Vanportfleet sings of things that will never feel the same again, or places that are no longer home or anything like it, he does it while studying artifacts that are supposed to prove the contrary and yet have lost the power to do so. The sound and the message of silent barriers and separators that are only inches deep but feel like light years away are consistent with each other.
Is that a sound you’re interested in? That’s the big question and will determine whether Quiet Moments is right for you. In the end, this is a rock record that has severely tweaked what it means to be a rock record. You are not going to be able to pull a single out of the tracks here because this simply doesn’t work that way. For this one, you need to turn it on and let it play, and wash over you as the deep bass and low synth lines reverberate. This isn’t jogging music, driving music, and it’s definitely not clubbing music. This is one that rewards you for the act of being still and paying attention, and if you are prepared to do so, you’ll find Lycia’s Quiet Moments pays out in the end.