Lanterna- Highways (Badman)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Clear Blue
2. Brightness
3. Last Practice
4. Canyons
5. Seasons
6. Brooklyn
7. Adriatic
8. Half-Light
9. Highways

Henry Frayne's Lanterna has always been something of a known quantity, and frankly I'd have it no other way. On their fourth release, Highways, the strummy/ ethereal landscapes painted by Frayne (with help from Mike Brosco's tape effects on Eric Gebow's drums on several tracks) traverse much of the same territory as before, and indeed, many of the same adjectives apply: lush, cinematic, ambient, lush, shimmering, thought-provoking, and entirely original.

There is something undeniably solitary about a Lanterna disc. Each of the tracks approach the theme differently, but each leave you alone in its unique landscape. The more brazen, upbeat Brightness is a track almost longing for vocals, as it evokes some of the warmer, more expansive atmospheres on Highways. The sultry, layered Last Practice creates a nice focal point for the disc's first act- it is a track that isolates many of Frayne's technical strengths, and serves to provide the listener with a framework for the disc. Seasons also strikes a nice watermark. With it's layered effects and alternately strummy and soaring guitar work, it provides a nice anchor for the middle of the disc.

Brooklyn is the most interesting and unusual piece on Highways. Sounding more like a proper band with drums up in the mix, the track falls somewhere between mellow surf guitar track and a new age composition. The acoustic guitar that pervades the piece is mesmerizing, and the visions it evokes are both uplifting and sentimental.

In my pantheon, Lanterna have always been a more ethereal brother to Bruce Licher's Scenic (with whom they released a split ep several years ago). Both bands create pastoral soundtrack and are perfect partners for a cross country journey. Frayne is clearly a talented guitarist whose range is evident on Highways, and one can even sense elements of Michael Hedges' work within its tracks.

Ever since Frayne's guitar work with the sublime Moon Seven Times (and Area before that), he has provided us with consistent attention to detail and mastery of the craft. Writing about Lanterna is indeed like dancing about architecture and any description of their music inevitably makes it seem more mundane than it ultimately sounds. Highways is a road movie for the ear, and a welcome traveling partner at that.

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