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Variety Lights - Central Flow

  by Andy Cassidy

published: 26 / 6 / 2012

Variety Lights - Central Flow
Label: Fire Records
Format: CD


Eccentric and challenging, but convincing debut album from Varety Lights, the new project of early Mercury Rev front man David Baker

Named after Fellini’s 1950 romance (Italian: 'Luci del varietà') Variety Lights marks a timely return to music from one of the true bohemians of the last twenty years: David Baker. Baker, who was vocalist for Mercury Rev’s first two albums, 'BOCES' and 'Yerself is Steam', has teamed up with “”vintage synth addict” Will MacLean to produce this album which mixes analogue synth sounds with electronic psychedelia and a dash of downright weirdness. All good stuff, if you ask me. The album opens with 'Starlit', a heavy electronic piece constructed around an infectious earworm of a percussion loop. Baker’s vocals sound fantastic and sit just high enough in the mix to give him prominence over the maelstrom of sound which is the backing track. As opening songs go, 'Starlit' is a real statement of intent, and showcases Baker’s uncompromising style. The mood changes with second track 'Establishment', a chirpy synth-driven number with some fantastically surreal lyrics (“I’ve seen the medicine through/I’m into two kinds of flu” being one of the more beguiling couplets). Driving percussion again plays a massive role on third track 'Sea Faraway', while the effected guitars on 'Invisible Forest' place the song somewhere between Neil Young’s more ambitious sonic meanderings and Mercury Rev associates the Flaming Lips. The synth atmosphere on 'Oh Setting Sun' is as unsettling as it is magical, and the use of what sounds like a Theremin on the song’s bridge elevates the track to something truly special. The album closes with 'Infinity Room', a slow building track which seemingly takes its cue from Richard Wright’s work with Pink Floyd and builds through Eno, Tomita and Manzerak to produce an all-encompassing instrumental drone wh¬ich perfectly bookends a remarkable set. On the evidence of this album, David Baker has refused to go the way of many of his peers and thereby avoided the lure of the mainstream. This is not an easy album, and it may take more than one listen until you “get it,” but it is definitely worth persevering. With 'Central Flow', Variety Lights have created an album which is as rewarding as it is challenging. I’m told that there are plans to play the songs live with a full band later this year. I would love to see how this album translates to the live medium. If the album is anything to go by, it will be a truly memorable show.¬

Track Listing:-
1 Starlit
2 Establishment
3 Sea Faraway
4 Invisible Forest
5 Silent Too Long
6 Oh Setting Sun
7 Sell Your Soul
8 You Are So Famous
9 Crystal Cove
10 Feeling All Alone
11 Infinity Room

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