Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Light Asylum: Light Asylum

Written by Adriana Lucci
lightasylumlightasylum.jpgLast fall I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a show at Sarah Lawrence College featuring drum machine/synth master Bruno Coviello. Having just uprooted and moved across state lines, I was hypnotized by the echoing synth that reminded me of being lost at night in a new city that I might one day call home. The next day I was still searching for a guide and realized that Coviello collaborates with percussionist and vocal powerhouse Shannon Funchess in Brooklyn’s romantic goth synthpop duo, Light Asylum.

Last fall I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a show at Sarah Lawrence College featuring drum machine/synth master Bruno Coviello. Having just uprooted and moved across state lines, I was hypnotized by the echoing synth that reminded me of being lost at night in a new city  that I might one day call home. The next day I was still searching for a guide and realized that Coviello collaborates with percussionist and vocal powerhouse Shannon Funchess in Brooklyn’s romantic goth synthpop duo, Light Asylum.

Since then I have been anticipating the release of their self-titled LP debut. Though I was originally entranced by Coviello’s ethereal beats, Funchess’s lyrics and vocals perfectly articulate my experience introspectively dancing alone in a crowd of students. Throughout Light Asylum, Funchess finds strength by exposing her vulnerability. On the opening track, “Hour Fortress,” her voice rumbles like a thunder cloud emanating from the depths of her being: “Our fortress, open wide, inside flames of fire burning bright.”

Having relinquished its guard, Light Asylum is most naked in its love songs. “Angel Tongue,” for example, starts with a drum echoing the human heartbeat, pensive synth, and ephemeral chimes. Though addressed to another, the lyrics sound like Funchess stripped them directly from her diary: “If I gave you the key to my heart, would you take it? Would you take it? Would you run, and leave me with a rusty knob that could not be undone?” In other heart wrenching tracks, like “Shallow Tears” and “A Certain Person,” Funchess expresses her passion by departing momentarily from her distinctive baritone to exercise her full vocal range. Funchess shines brightest when she completely exposes herself.

Despite its intense emotions, Light Asylum is no pity party. On the album’s fierce political tracks, “IPC” and “Pope Will Roll,” Funchess packs a vocal punch. Over a reverbed militaristic snare she criticizes law enforcement: “We’re taking the streets back man!” and the Catholic church. In line with Occupy Wall Street and today’s populist movement, Light Asylum demands that America reassess its values and embrace sociopolitical change. This anger is not angst; it is derived from compassion. In “Sins of the Flesh” Funchess pleads, “We need a common respect free us from all our psychic ills.” This compassion is the root of change.

Light Asylum is unabashedly melodramatic, reminiscent of '80s British acts, like Yaz and Joy Division. Despite frequent use of reverbed snare (and a whiplash sample à la Devo on the political diatribe “IPC”), Light Asylum is by no means a regurgitation of music from thirty years ago. Combining analog synth with modern production techniques, Coviello and Funchess pay respect to their influences, delivering post-punk and new wave to a new generation. By sharing their struggle, Light Asylum’s listeners find solace knowing they are lost but not alone, and with this newfound solidarity find the strength to continue searching for the way home. 

 

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