August 22, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Lampara - Lampara (2012)

Lampara’s self-titled debut album is one of the most strikingly passionate records I’ve heard this year, and I find it quite unreasonable that such collection of sprawling sweep and intimate post-punk catharsis didn’t have the media mileage it deserves. All of this isn’t to say that the album is a masterpiece or a game-changer that welcomes radical innovation. It’s by no means a modern classic even by OPM standards, but amid all the furor and brooding romanticism, Lampara exudes an aura of confidence, pushed by a dramatic flair that confronts you in unsuspecting jolt. There’s an attempt to aspire for greater heights, echoing their influences—Sheila and the Insects, The Dawn, Interpol, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Cure—with gloriously widescreen aesthetic that draws promising results.

The gloomy romance, the hopeful but still insidious love songs covered in synth-pop cushion, that inevitable touchstone of new wave melancholy and ‘90s stadium rock ballast, all contribute to the thematic consistency that holds their music together. Although sometimes it can be difficult to absorb so much emotional relentlessness, Lampara worms its way to your hearts the more you listen to it, finding the entire over-the-top feel, cathartically enjoyable. “Freezing Maze Of Light” and “Still” opens the album with all-consuming introspection and miserablist mope, backed with radiant synths and lush instrumentations that envelope into a big, warm and dense sonic motif. “Pepé Le Pew” tones down the epic, atmospheric vibe to give way for an alt ballad about emotional longing, written as if it’s the last call to salvation. “I know it’s wrong, but you are all that I want,” Max Barredo insists. The more you listen to it and the more that it plays around your thought bubble, the more you consider his pleading, at one point in your life, your own too.

“Mesopotamia,” Beast” and “Limits” remind me so much of Sheila and The Insects songs, stomping morose post-punk revival with saw-toothed guitar riffs and driving rhythms that spiral out of control, yet put together by meticulous detail and restraint. By the time it reaches “Bursting Fete,” the outbursts of aggression has dissipated, leaving only a pop glimmer that gives meaning to the meaningless. And then out of nowhere, “Kalapati” brings back the intensity and grit, working more as an endurance test than an attempt at continuity. In an early interview, the band shared how the song was conceived out of ennui. “Our vocalist, drummer, and guitar player were stuck in traffic on their way to rehearsal when they started listening to Wolfgang. When they got to the studio, they took the whole experience of that soundtrip to our songwriting session. So instead of coming up with a well thought of first song, we ended up with a fun, metal sounding one.” Laced with synth spikes and a groovier pace, it still managed to blend well with the rest of the tracks in the album.

It’s always refreshing when an album comes along to satisfy your craving for arena-sized mayhem while also plunges you deep down the emotional territory. Lampara’s debut album takes you to such delightful ride, turning theatricality and grandeur into something that can be felt, a warm cloak that you’d want to wear any time you feel like hiding or a drawn-out sanctuary that nobody but you, understands. It doesn't make sense, really. But everybody needs sweeping dramas once in a while. B+ 

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