Evidence aplenty that their rock formula has some mileage left in it yet.
Louis Pattison 2009-10-13
Providence, Rhode Island’s Lightning Bolt do a lot with a little. Formed in 1994 by bassist Brian Gibson and drummer Brian Chippendale, two graduates from the creative, liberal-minded Rhode Island School of Design, the duo spent much of their early existence playing strictly live and improvisatory, touring hard and setting up on the floor in whatever warehouse or dive bar they were booked to play to dissolve the space between band and audience.
This, you might think, implies a certain visceral intensity to what Lightning Bolt do – and you’d be right. Earthly Delights, the duo’s fifth record, occupies similar territory to its predecessor, 2005’s Hypermagic Mountain, being both a record of some pretty remarkable technical chops, and more simply, being an album of songs that often rock extremely hard.
Gibson’s bass is channelled through an extensive array of pedals, sometimes – as on Colossus – soaked in lashings of psychedelic wah-wah, at other times fuzzed out so it covers the sonic canvas much as a few particularly large insects might cover the windscreen of your Ford Buick after a fast cross-country drive. Chippendale’s approach to percussion, meanwhile, is every bit as unconventional. Playing a drum kit stripped down to the bare necessities – just snare, kick and a couple of well-dented cymbals – he matches Gibson’s lurid bass splurges with some hectic, splattery drumming that occasionally coalesces into propulsive rhythms, but elsewhere seems just as happy going off like a string of lit firecrackers.
So well honed is Gibson and Chippendale’s playing relationship, though, that they make such a peculiar aesthetic into coherent tracks. Funny Farm has a vaguely cow-punk feel, Gibson switching between bass sludge and bluegrass-tinged melodies, while Rain on Lake I’m Swimming In is an uncharacteristically light number, Chippendale dispensing chattering, beast-like cries over shimmers of tropical guitar. The album peaks late, though, with Transmissionary – 12 minutes of athletic drumming, cosmic noodle and heavy, middle eastern-tinged riffs that suggests Lightning Bolt’s formula, while essentially unchanged after all this time, still has some mileage in it yet.