Lightning Dust began as a side project for Amber Webber and Joshua Wells where they could explore folksier sounds mixed with minimalist electronics, away from their main gigs in Black Mountain. 2009s Infinite Light was their second record and a stunning display of their studio prowess, showing Wells as a powerful presence behind the board. It also showed Amber Webber as a stunning songwriter and frontwoman.
In 2016 Webber and Wells left Black Mountain permanently, giving them some space to breathe and regroup. Those three years gave them the time to write and record the newest Lightning Dust record, the sublime and dark Spectre. Spectre sees Webber and Wells making the best music of their career; a mixture of lush psychedelia, simple electronics, and dense arrangements. The dramatic, heavy music suits Amber Webber’s vocals well, giving her a space to truly shine. Spectre is gorgeous, dramatic, and engaging.
There are so many amazing moments here; from the slow burn opening of “Devoted To”, to the tense electronic touches of “Run Away” that build into a driving 80s pop track. Electronic piano and Webber’s soaring vocals give the song an almost Pat Benatar feel. The piano-led “Inglorious Flu” shows Amber Webber smoldering in a haze of melancholy and emotional heaviness. There are Stevie Nicks vibes in “When It Rains”, complete with big 80s radio sound and production.
One of my favorites here is the dark and smoldering “Led Astray”. A mixture of dense production, slow-motion rhythm, and tasteful synths, this feels like it could be a Bond theme. It has all the hallmarks of a great one: drama, mystery, and a slow burn quality.
There’s a sense of dark reflection and doom on this album. Written during fires in Vancouver, that apocalyptic dread brought on by the haze of smoke in the air around Webber’s home during that time lays heavily in the songs. Spectre is unlike anything this duo has ever done. Wells’ production is spot-on, while Webber has never sounded better. And they get some help from friends like Stephen Malkmus(guitar on “A Pretty Picture”) and Dan Bejar(guitar on “Competitive Depression”).
From start to finish, Spectre is a joy to behold. Intimate songs and deft production, Amber Webber and Joshua Wells have created a dark and lush world for us to inhabit.
8.3 out of 10