Lanterna - Sands
A Series of Questions and Answers on Lanterna's Sands:
Who is Lanterna? What is Sands?
Lanterna primarily solo project of Illinois-based Henry Frayne, who has played with the Moon Seven Times, Area, and many others. Sands is the third Lanterna release, after 1995's self-titled debut and 2001's Elm Street.
What kind of music does Lanterna play?
If Lanterna had to filed under one category, it'd most likely be ambient, although that label is also inadequate: Brian Eno's famous quip that ambient music should be as ignorable as it is interesting applies only partially to Sands. Frayne adds much stronger rhythmic drive to his work than is typical of ambient composers; he sometimes uses a drum machine programmed by Steve Day, other times he employs chugging guitars, as on "Greek Island".
Could you tell us more about this "Greek Island" song?
Certainly, since "Greek Island" is perhaps the strongest track on the record. It has an elegant sense of movement, and surpasses the other cuts on Sands. Frayne tries to lend the whole album a cinematic sweep, but he carries it off most successfully on "Greek Island."
I already own an ambient album. Could you please tell me why I'd want to buy another one?
Perhaps you wouldn't. For some people, ambient music is nothing more than pleasant room spray for when they don't want something intrusive on their stereos. Other people-- let's call them "fans of ambient music"-- enjoy the subtle emotional shades woven into the genre's best albums. On Sands, Frayne often hints at mood shifts that never come, casting shadows of perception that enrich the delicate resonance of his never obvious material. Sands also tends to grab more attention than one might expect, like Eno's On Land. Frayne doesn't exactly straddle the boundary between pop and ambient, but he does take a couple steps towards the former.
Is that good?
Yes and no. Frayne runs into trouble, primarily because he mandates varying degrees of attention: Listeners will find their expectations shifting across tempi, volume levels-- even styles-- in a short period of time. Sands alternates between rewarding and frustrating on close listen, as subsequent tracks run afoul of any audience bias, whether toward ambient or pop.
I'm told the guitar sound on this album is horribly dated and retro-futuristic, that the drum machine sounds like it was picked up at Bobby Brown's yard sale, and that generally, Sands sound like the most technologically sophisticated release of 1981. Is that true?
Why would I want to buy Sands in that case?
As the lessons of ambient music have remained all too segregated from pop, Frayne should be saluted for his attempt to break down the barrier between these fields. Sands is incrementally successful in doing so, and should be welcomed by anyone who likes ambient, but resents its limitations. Yet Frayne has the same problem as everyone from Eno onwards: how to get an inevitably prejudiced audience to listen to a genre whose very function is a drastic departure from the norm. He hasn't solved it here, and will pay the price of marginality for his modest failure, but he's searching for a bridge that could connect two worlds, and as he's one of very few architects with a solid blueprint, you'll want to keep his card in your rolodex.
-Brian James, February 20th, 2003