1.18.2010

Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights


Lightning Bolt has split most of their time between tight structure and free improvisation throughout the 5 full-length albums they've released. Their latest, Earthly Delights, is somewhat more rooted in the organized end of the spectrum. Although, within their most organized riffage is still plenty of pure random chance, coming mainly from the piercing high and bowel-shaking low feedback that's a part of all their recordings and performances. Brian Chippendale's drumming and Brian Gibson's slightly non-standard bass execute a perfectly coordinated assault during their most energetic moments.

Together as Lightning Bolt since 1994, the two Brians have always made music that sounds suitable for soundtracking brutal and depraved acts. Chippendale has said before, though, that even though he doesn't want to have rules to what they do, they avoid sounding 'mean'. He feels it allows people to categorize them too quickly, and that they strive for a vaguer quirkiness in their sound. He can call it quirky if he wants to, but if I heard this music as a young child, it would probably have given me nightmares.

This album not a huge leap forward -- even the cover art could easily be mistaken for 2005's Hypermagic Mountain -- but it does take baby steps in new directions. For instance, the main riff of "Funny Farm" is pure chicken pickin', but it doesn't feel out of character for the band. And "Colossus" starts as a slow, sludgy bass riff that builds to their typical frantic heights. Not for a long time have they seemed comfortable displaying that much patience for such a low-energy riff. It's a sign of their attempt to constantly change the dynamic range of their music, in directions that aren't always harder and faster. It's still at it's heart visceral music, made more to influnce consciousness or physically punish than inspire sing alongs. In that regard, Lightning Bolt has few equals.

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