(Lonely Hiway Records, CD, digital download)
A wonderful thing occurs in the isolation of small-town Vermont, perhaps especially in those rural communities fed by nearby liberal-arts colleges. It isn't uncommon to discover, say, a farmer who uses recording software in his or her spare time. Lumina, the debut studio album from southern Vermont's Luminous Crush, is an exemplary piece of this cultural phenomenon.
On record, Luminous Crush are composed of farmer and Middlebury College grad Ben Campbell and songwriter Laura Molinelli; they've recently expanded to a five-piece band for live shows. The Jamaica, Vt.-based couple recorded and produced Lumina in their living-room studio, with a single mic and the studio software program Ableton Live.
Campbell and Molinelli have extensive musical backgrounds rooted in folk and bluegrass. Seven Days caught up with Campbell for a feature about his prolific underground production in 2009. The enormous accessibility to sonic experimentation that Ableton provides has created a new realm for traditional musicians to cross over into the world of electronic music.
Campbell's 2013 solo release as Saint Albums, titled Eternal Memory, was fuzzed-out indie with reverb-washed fiddle that recalls the eclectic work of late cellist Arthur Russell. Luminous Crush are explicitly dream pop. Shimmery guitar rhythms wind between intricate, arpeggiated synth melodies and ambient details to create an atmospheric opus. Genres blend together in a swirling mist of well-crafted stereo effects, recalling the art pop of Arto Lindsay and Stereolab.
Lumina begins with bubbling indie pop featuring glitchy synthesizer sequences and waves of chilled-out guitar on "Turn Around the Circle." The first half of the album rolls from an ecstatic folk anthem titled "Festival" to the echo-y bluegrass jam "Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today." Dreamy lounge vibes wash in on "L.F.M.," with soothing vocal harmonies and a guitar solo that sounds like an ode to David Bowie's Labyrinth soundtrack.
The album mellows out into smooth bossa nova on "Lion Jon Bear," a track with smooth vocal harmonies and a hint of silky piano amid relaxed rhythm guitar. Subtle, Tropicália-influenced percussion blends with ethereal mandolin and thick jazz bass on the title track — an album gem. The soundscape morphs into psychedelic trip-hop with distorted guitar and ambient synth swells on "Long Time Coming."
While the most obvious dreamlike qualities of Lumina stem from the ample use of celestial reverb and gentle delay effects, the album is also dreamlike in its imaginative composition. Ableton has provided Campbell and Molinelli the opportunity to explore their knowledge of theory through an infinite soundscape. The result is a beautifully polished album that, just beneath its gossamer veil, is secretly bedroom pop.
Luminous Crush celebrate the release of Lumina with a full-band show on Saturday, September 17, at the Wardsboro Town Hall. Lumina will be available at luminouscrush.bandcamp.com.