Lux Aeterna: Humming Out Spools of Thread
Attention WHFS playlist formatters: If you haven't latched onto it already, "Caution Magnetic" by local up-and-coming band Lux Aeterna is exactly the kind of tune you force-feed the Baltimore-Washington area once every hour until the simple pleasure of hearing a good pop tune is transformed into a Pavlovian need to purge. Fortunately for the rest of us, most of the material on Humming Out Spools of Thread, Lux Aeterna's debut CD on erstwhile local label Magic Eye Singles, has more substance--and therefore less of a chance of being co-opted by the WHFS beast.
On long-player, the Lux Aeterna formula goes something like this: lazy, hazy folk rock with dada vocals in collision with funk beats and elements of electronica. This equation isn't new so much as new to Baltimore. Lighter numbers, such as the aforementioned modern-rock-hit-to-be and the tuneful "Galaxies of Milk" and "Get Off on My Cloud," seem calculated to appeal to anyone amicably acquainted with the recordings of musical mix-and-matchers Beck or Cornershop. And to Lux Aeterna's credit, somber and more sumptuous moments act as counterweights to the pop delights. "Country Stars," "Sirop," and "Rough Diamond" all are admirable, reaching with some success toward a rougher-edged Tortoise or Stereolab sound.
The only selections on Humming Out that flat don't work are the most self-consciously experimental. "Eyes All Hot," for instance, reworks "Old MacDonald" on toy instruments, complete with synthetic barnyard noises. When is an experiment not an experiment? When it's already been done, with conclusive results. The Residents' Goosebump EP subverted nursery rhymes and children's songs using only instruments available at the local Toys R Us. That landmark synthetic/minimalist recording, now nearly 20 years old, has a cut called "Farmers" that reworks "Old MacDonald" on toy instruments, complete with . . . well, you get the picture.
Avant-garde missteps notwithstanding, the album warrants the positive buzz it's been generating. Don't expect a brand-new sound, but rather enjoy the energy of good local rock musicians (including such scene vets as Helikopter/Science Kit's Cullen Davis, Seade's Ben Remo, Cloaca's Eric Winner) energetically pursuing something new to them. Nearly everyone's heard toys and turntables at the service of good, clean pop by now, but that doesn't mean that sound can't be effective when tackled with exuberance. Lux Aeterna delivers, at a minimum, effervescent fun, with the promise of a subtler, richer future lurking between the lines. Keep your eyes and ears tuned to this band.