Album Reviews

Lanterna – Desert Ocean

(Badman) UK release date: 5 June 2006


If Snow Patrol ever stop wanting to be U2 and decide they’d rather be Sigur Ros instead, the result would probably sound something like this. Whether or not you take that as glowing praise or a damning condemnation will probably determine whether or not you’ll like the result.

Desert Ocean is Laterna’s fifth album and while I don’t know what the previous four sound like, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that they’re probably pretty much exactly the same, delivering safe, dull, inoffensive but equally uninteresting instrumental melodies that like to think they sound like film scores or classical opuses but in fact sound like average indie without a singer.

Laterna is essentially prolific guitarist Henry Frayne. Born in New York and raised in Illinois, the music he makes has got that irritating safety about it that you just know would appeal to Coldplay fans on a day when they fancy something a bit different (but not too much).

It would make nice driving music, nice background music to a particularly nice dinner party filled with nice people, wouldn’t offend your colleagues if you put in on in the office, and your mother would probably like it. So might the vicar’s wife. Doesn’t it just irritate you already?

It starts nicely enough, with Luminous, which has a nice rhythm you can happily nod your head and tap your foot to. This is Laterna’s first release on Jemez Mountain, the instrumental arm of Badman records, and it will probably do well enough for them to spawn at least a couple more.

Second track Venture has more gentle strings, taking a while to get going but then pretty much doing the same job the first one did, except it’s two minutes longer. Then comes Summer Break which has some drums and is nodding a bit more towards California in a way that Jack Johnson fans will probably enjoy. Fog, interestingly, is a bit faster than the others, giving a feel of darting about in a rush, pulling itself in different directions at once. It’s the closest the album comes to experimental and if more of it sounded like this, I might have been kinder to it. 48th and 8th, the next track, would make a good coffee advert. I guess by now you get the gist without me needing to go through the rest of the album.

All of this makes it sound terrible, which it isn’t, but apart from that, there’s not a lot left that can be said about it. It’s cod classical played on guitars and piano but nothing more interesting. Occasionally it’s a bit more Tangerine Dream-ish than it was on the track before, and the final track, Messina, might not have been out of place on the Ghostworld soundtrack, but that’s about your lot.

This does make it kind of evocative of the small towns on long American drives that Frayne is trying to help you envisage, in that I bet not a lot happens in them either. I don’t think that’s the point he’s trying to make though, so – there you are. Nice, dull, boring. Spend your money on something else.


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Lanterna – Desert Ocean