An Excursion in Ambient Americana from Lanterna is Echoes March CD of the Month
Lanterna’s Backyards opens with the rollicking title track, a screaming ride down the Pacific Coast highway kind of song that you might expect to hear from the Eagles in their rare instrumental moments. It’s a great song with the twangy guitar and it’s also a little misleading as an album opener because nothing else on Backyards sounds like this. Instead, the album picks up where Lanterna left off 9 years ago with the CD, Desert Ocean: gorgeous open chord songs with reverb-drenched delay guitar lines calling out across an endless plain.
Lanterna is Henry Frayne, who we first heard playing guitar in the shoegaze/dream-pop bands Area and The Moon Seven Times. As Lanterna he’s been creating a distinctive brand of Ambient Americana, a sound first put in the air by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois on the Apollo album.
Each song on Backyards is like an exquisite reverie. “Monticello Farm” reveals its origins as a song that started by strumming an acoustic guitar. That initial DNA centers the piece, but it’s Louie Simon’s rolling drums and Frayne’s distantly echoed guitar that carries the tune into the mystic. “Sicily” is another one with acoustic guitar roots that immediately establish a wistful feeling as a cyclical refrain slowly walks across Simon’s asymmetric hand percussion rhythm.
The songs with the strongest backbeat, like “Verdant,” highlight Frayne as a lead guitarist with country-bent solos, but are the least atmospheric on the album. Frayne works best when his guitar is spinning out refracted lines ringing out across Simon’s trance drum groove on “Coastal Route. ” Inspired by the road along the rugged coast of Maine, it’s a different, lazier kind of highway trek than “Backyards.”
Lanterna does something that’s not easy. His songs are heavily atmospheric but instead of the enclosed, immersive feel that sound often yields, his compositions gallop along pastoral back roads and across desert plains, open to the sky and gathering light like a sun-catcher. Backyards isn’t the one behind your house, it’s the one behind your mind.