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Luke Hess - Light in the Dark

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Artist: Luke Hess

Album: Light in the Dark

Label: Echocord

Review date: Aug. 7, 2009

Techno, Christianity. We’ve been here before and it’s likely too apologetic to say that it didn’t end well. After all, Moby remains active. Perhaps it’s unfair, or even a bit of reverse discrimination, to conflate Luke Hess’ religion with his music. Sure, his debut album Light in the Dark certainly employs vague enough strategies to conceal its faith-based initiatives. (But if he turns up for an interview, words of all-encompassing devotion will surface). Track titles like “Evidence Everywhere” or “The Way” smack firstly of X-Files obsessiveness and self-help vim, respectively.

The treble of subway tracks faintly screeches underneath the fidgety bass, pulsing diodes and swirling curls of spindly synth on opener “Meaning Matters." A gaseous voice speaks. Psalms or whatever, it’s another cold texture amid the undulating current of nocturnal flux. Like his Echochord cohorts, Hess keeps the lights dim and the space (a baronial megachurch?) sparsely furnished. His four bare walls envelop a continually expanding perimeter; outside the train is always rattling by, rails whistling faintly.

The label’s namesake FX permeates his hushed atmospherics and cavernous sonorities. With Brundle-like mania, Hess can’t stop throwing things into the echoplex to see what stuttering cadences, splintered shapes, or elongated tones will come out the other end.

But we’re hardly in the realm of dubbed-out mood pieces. When Hess does occasionally meander in fields of fog, he strides along with marked pep. Generally, Hess employs delay and deflection of accents to thicken the bounce of patiently panicked "Evidence Everywhere,” the zipped slink and snow pack crunch of "Self-Control" and the chiming sheets of drizzle enveloping "The Truth Is." Compared to the cumulus drift of Deepchord and Echospace, this is dancefloor fodder. Lacking their oceanic breadth, hypnagogic pacing and wafts into the white, Lights in the Dark feels far less substantial. At least, Hess’s austere rhythms redefine the notion of bible-thumping.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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