Full Album Premiere & Review: Lucid Sins, Dancing in the Dark

Lucid Sins Dancing in the Dark

Glasgow duo Lucid Sins — joined in the cause by a host of friends and collaborators — release their third album, Dancing in the Dark, this week through Totem Cat Records. Deeply informed by classic progressive rock, with more than a flash of Canterbury folk in “Sanctuary Stone” but a broad enough scope that when the two-piece of multi-instrumentalists Andreas Jönsson (lead vocals, guitar bass, organ, synth) and Ruaraidh Sanachan (backing vocals) jam out with returning collaborator Stuart Coleman on sax at the end of closer “Catch the Wild,” indeed they seem to have done just that, but more to the point it’s not out of place. The record begins with “Jack of Diamonds” and within two minutes is basking in dappled sunshine through leaves of classic, organic melody.

Through the entirety of its 10 songs and 37 minutes — which you can and probably should hear premiering on the player below — Lucid SinsDancing in the Dark unfurls (sometimes not) subtle breadth and craft a sound that’s heavy at its root but that can grow expansive enough to account for the harpsichord of “In the Woods (The Drifter),” which follows the storytelling of “Jack of Diamonds” with an outright promotion of a naturalist ethos; the character of The Drifter is, you guessed it, in the woods. “Some call him crazy and some call him weird/But his is a life without burden or fear/So spare him your pity, for he carries no shame/And who is the lord of his own domain if not he who lives free as the wind and the rain?” And the lines in the fadeout, “In the woods/Life is good,” reinforce the message. Still light-touch and ’70s warm in tone, “The Dance” blends acoustic and electric guitar, leaving room for handclap flourish in its shuffle, lush vocals over top, and the party continues in “Take Me With You,” which brings Dunbarrow‘s Espen Anderson in for a duet and Coleman again on organ.

Shifts in arrangement and guests coming and going are part of the personality of Dancing in the Dark, but by no means are they the substance of it. The above-quoted lyrics from “In the Woods (The Drifter)” lay out a position and perspective against modernity, and the aesthetic follows through on that, but somehow Lucid Sins aren’t retro. Production might have something to do with that, but what they seem to envision across Dancing in the Dark is a malleable heavy folk, inherently progressive rather than consciously showy in terms of technique, and in “Take Me With You” they push about as far into rhythmic urgency as they’ll go, and it’s not so much that it’s faster than “The Dance” just before — “The Dance,” by the way, is the best gothic post-punk boogie I’ve ever heard from an ostensibly psychedelic folk-prog Scottish two-piece; admittedly not a lot of competition, and yes, that’s a compliment — which makes it exceptionally well positioned to lead into the soft guitar harmonies and all-in folk cultism of presumed side A capper “Sanctuary Stone.”

Multi-media artist and experimentalist Hanna Tuulikki contributes the first of two guest vocal spots to “Sanctuary Stone,” taking on the lead role with backing from Jönsson to mark Dancing in the Dark‘s turning point. On the most basic, superficial level, at this point the listener has had “The Dance,” and side B will bring “A Call in the Dark” to fulfill the title’s promise. While remaining consistent in tone — in other words, it’s still the same record — Lucid Sins lean into proto-doom through “A Call in the Dark” while nonetheless bouncing almost maddeningly LUCID SINSthrough repetitions of “A call in the dark/A call in the darkness” like some woodland satyr about to cast a spell to make your face fall off.

A brooding, creeping riff matches the lyrical narrative, and the song almost seems to be teasing as it moves through the catchy-if-intentionally-disorienting hook. Though it has plenty of stops as it loops around, “A Call in the Dark” gives over to the organ melancholy and watery verse vocals of “The Toll,” a quiet dirge that rises in the chorus and recedes again from there. “The Toll” is the shortest cut on Dancing in the Dark at 2:55, and one can’t help but wonder if we’re meeting the same character from “In the Woods (The Drifter),” whose potential unceremonious end is marked by, yes, a bell, and the final lines, “He’s frozen and his eyes are turning blind/He starts to stumble and he falls/The final words that no one will recall/Now lying still without the strength to crawl.”

It’s not a minor jump from there to the handclaps in the second half of “From the Bough,” but side B centerpiece is a masterclass in how to sound angular without being inaccessible, proto-doom in form and progressive in construction. With shades of some of earlier Hexvessel‘s stately delivery and folkish base, organ or synth runs alongside the guitar and gives some melodic shimmer to the distortion, mixed for complement rather than contrast. When that song — which is kind of a dance, if we’re being honest — finishes, the penultimate “The Raven’s Eye” marks the return of Tuulikki, this time sharing a duet with Jönsson over a languid procession of contemplative heavy folk. With the relative blowout still to come in “Catch the Wild,” Lucid Sins can afford to really dig into “The Raven’s Eye,” and they seem to do just that, with what starts as a richly arranged waltz shifting toward chime-inclusive soothing psych-rock. They drop out for a last verse, Jönsson alone at first, then with Tuulikki and organ as they gently let go.

As they have been all along, the band remains clever, classy and thoughtful in “Catch the Wild,” setting out with an acoustic/electric guitar blend and cycles through medieval-ish intro twists before smoothing out and suggesting someone open a window. Like in “From the Bough,” there’s tension in the groove of “Catch the Wild” pulling the listener forward through the measures of the verse, and there’s a chorus that takes hold just once before they’re into the instrumental ending, sax and all, but the entire five-minute span (the longest inclusion here) is about the linear trajectory more than anything, and Lucid Sins seem to be finding their way back to the bit of swagger in “Jack of Diamonds” as they wrap “Catch the Wild.” Fitting somehow for the record to follow a full-circle trajectory as so much of it feels rounded at the edges and it derives the bulk of its heaviness not from tonal manipulation, but atmosphere, then mood, and yes, the lyrics throughout, which should be considered an essential facet of engaging the whole of Dancing in the Dark‘s almost counterintuitively vibrant realization. The album is gorgeous the way moss on wood can be art.

Please enjoy:

LUCID SINS “Dancing In The Dark” Out October 27th on Totem Cat Records

The story goes as follows… You stumble through the forest. Alone and far from home. All paths have returned you to this place. Lost in a world of green. Hidden in the dark. As the light fades you glimpse flickering flame and catch the scent of smoke. In a tiny clearing, shadows cast by a dying fire take human-esque forms. Leaning in for warmth, they share ten tales of hope and betrayal, magic and madness, love and death. Whispered words mingle with distant memories, and as the fire grows higher, your sense of self is scorched and burned. One by one now, the figures begin to dance and spin as occult psychedelic sounds drift through the trees. Caught in the maelstrom, suspended high in a swirling mesh of leaves and perception, you release your grip on space and time… On the forest floor, stirred by dawn, you try to make sense of the mist within your mind. To recall where you have been. To know who you once were. Around a glowing fire, deep in the woods, LUCID SINS are Dancing In The Dark… Will you dance with them?

1. Jack Of Diamonds
2. In The Woods (The Drifter)
3. The Dance
4. Take Me With You
5. Sanctuary Stone
6. A Call In The Dark
7. The Toll
8. From The Bough
9. The Raven’s Eye
10. Catch The Wild

LUCID SINS on “Dancing in the Dark”
Andreas Jönsson – Vocals, guitars, bass, organ, synthesizer
Ruaraidh Sanachan – Drums, bass, percussion, organ, mellotron, recorder, backing vocals

with guests
Espen Andersen, Vocals (track 3)
Stuart Coleman, Hammond Organ (track 3)
Hanna Tuulikki, Vocals (tracks 5 & 9)
Alex Ward, Clarinet (track 10)
+++ Cover art by David V. D’Andrea

Lucid Sins, “Jack of Diamonds” official video

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