|Bummer alert! For those half-to-fully-baked music fans who gloriously tripped on Mr. Stephen McBean's wild retro-rock ride, Black Mountain, don't go expecting a similar buzz from sobering side project Lightning Dust. Sure, they sound like they're named after a volatile drug combination (PCP and pop rocks?), but as Lightning Dust, Black Mountaineers Amber Webber and Joshua Wells seek better living through histrionics, not chemistry. Fortunately, they didn't also kick their awesomely nasty late 60s/early 70s rock habit, making their self-titled debut just as potent a blast from the past as their full-time band.|
Webber's dour vocals attracted some criticism on Black Mountain, and in the context of that free-wheelin' album, the gripes are somewhat fair. However, with opening track "Listening On", Webber and Wells make no bones about the pall cast over their new incarnation. Like nearly every track on the LP, you can count the total instrument and vocal parts on one hand, a compositional illusion that seems to catapult Webber's stark quivering wails out of your speakers. Even ghostlier, the absence of percussion and other auxiliary touches helps to create ephemeral melodies that materialize briefly, only to vanish at the delicate touch of an organ key.
As sparse as the duo's toolbox appears, their album has a pronounced dramatic landscape of suspenseful highs and tranquilized lows, thanks both to Webber's powerful emoting and Wells' ivory-tickling flair. "Castles and Caves", the album's five-and-a-half minute centerpiece, consists only of piano, vocals and a brief cello part, but when those left-hand keys are pounded during the final chorus, they pack the gravitas of a full-blown orchestra. It doesn't hurt that the piano riff lifts King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King", though, as so many Black Mountain reviews point out in nauseating detail, these guys clearly aren't afraid of walking the line between artistic gesturing and flat-out mimicry.
However, while very transparent influences sometimes hamper Black Mountain's music, Lightning Dust racks up a much smaller tab borrowing classic rock ideas. Instead, sheer paucity, a typical symptom of side projects, plagues the duo. With ten tracks clocking just over a half-hour, the debut whets the palette but fails to satiate the stomach, instead leaving us with brief, majestic tracks that hint at something more epic. Although catchy, haunting three-minute howls like "Highway" or "Breathe" come as second nature to the duo, their attempts at curveballs and changeups miss the mark, as drab hoedown "Wind Me Up" and gooey FM ballad "When You Go" respectively show. Still, when these two stick to their comfort zone, they make magic happen, proving Lightning Dust to be another crag on Black Mountain worth scaling.
— Adam Moerder, June 7, 2007