Light Asylum sound like they’ve hunkered down, and very, very studiously absorbed those aspects of the 80s that seem cool in 2012. So on their self titled debut you can find John Lydon’s Public Image snarl, the cheap drum machines beloved by the EBM Goths who attended legendary club Batcave, occasionally flashes of Prince’s purple sex howl, the minor key stabby synths that punctuated Angular Records excellent 80s Coldwave compilation, and a lot of cuts that could easily soundtrack a John Hughes party scene. If this sounds appealing to you, then you’re going to love Light Asylum. They’ve picked their decade and are paying it homage incredibly skilfully. It’s a whistle stop tour through the time when yuppies ruled the Earth, but with all the crap bits wiped clean away.
I can’t help though, but harbour a feeling that the first time round this sort of thing was imbued with a desire to make something totally new- musicians were striving for digital futures previously unmapped, pushing towards living together, as Human League said, in Electric Dreams. The naivety of those early synth projects is long gone, but Light Asylum still lay claim to the feeling of innocence—the track Angel Tongue has a beautifully simple cascading riff that could have been cribbed from one of the League’s first albums—the difference being that the Sheffield pioneers were pushing boundaries rather than imposing false ones on themselves. This is only a nag really- but it does seem that one of the crucial elements, the futurism- utopian and dystopian- of the 80s music Light Asylum are aping, has been replaced with an ironic knowingness that undermines the project somewhat.
These concerns aside, they really can write an excellent tune, and once concerns about authenticity- or lack of- are set aside, this is a very enjoyable debut, albeit one steeped in nostalgia for a time when nostalgia was forgotten.
Stream the entire album below–