Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by Hunter Johns
It’s not often that I can describe a record perfectly by how far off the ground it feels. And yet Brooklyn-based artist Lia Ices’ latest effort, the almost-eponymous “Ices”, certainly can. “Ices” is miles high, somewhere between Brooklyn and Mars, and seems to survive, even thrive, in the airless frontier it claims as its home.
The first track on the album, “Tell Me”, proves to be the most grounded of them all. Ices, who co-produces with her brother, employs a driving Afro-Caribbean beat that works well with the acoustic guitar line that Ices’ brother layers on. The next track, “Thousand Eyes”, reveals more of what the album truly is, as Ices’ airy vocals partner with a psychedelic-guitar-and-industrial-beat tandem to create a mixture that reminds me of both Pink Floyd and Nine Inch Nails. The tjird track and one of the album’s singles, “Higher,” is definitely one of the more pop-oriented songs on the album. That said, the track is far more interesting than anything currently on Top 40 radio (the song has an equally interesting music video). Her spacey, double-tracked vocals dance above the bouncing organ line until the chorus, when a distorted, Sleigh Bells-esque guitar line rages below her croons of something barely unintelligible (as is often the case). The contrast between Ices’ breathy optimism and the aggression of her brother’s guitar produces something emotionally and sonically unique, and makes the track a standout on the album.
The next few tracks on the album run through a laundry list of musical influences, from Dark Side of the Moon’s dreaminess on “Love Ices Over”, to the shuffling beats on “Magick” reminiscent of “Shadows” from Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet, to “Electric Arc”, where Ices’ brother steals a page out of Nile Rodger’s guitar handbook. With all these styles the Ices siblings tinker with, Lia’s voice draws them all together to serve the common purpose of being as far from the Earth as she can manage. The last track on Ices, “Waves”, completes the exit from the Earth’s atmosphere. On this track Ices sounds like Lana Del Rey on acid, her usually light delivery giving way to Sinead O’Connor-style melodic drones. The production on this track is maybe spacey-er than any of the previous songs, providing a dreamy finality to the album.
At the close of the record, I feel downright inflated. The spacey mood of the album is rarely anchored by any rhythm section that does anything more than create more sonic space in the recording; the Ices experiment with hip hop, psychedelia, and Afro-Caribbean, yet still manage to infect each song with their own brand of chilled-out craziness. But if her album verges on floating away, Lia Ices is content to drift off into the cosmos, bringing me happily with her.
Hunter Johns is a new Lightning Rod staff member writing about music and film.