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Album Review

Mike Vanportfleet *is* Lycia, or at least he was with the first album, recorded quite well on a four-track — no lo-fi hiss apparent here. From the opening of Ionia with the title track itself, the basic Lycia aesthetic was set: heavily processed, echoed guitars, stiff, equally echoed drum machines, icy synth-string keyboards filling out the rest of the music, and Vanportfleet's sometimes narcotic, sometimes ominous whispery vocals on love, death, hope, life, darkness...the big issues, if you will. If that can seem sometimes a little too precious, his command of effective understatement by means of his singing at least lends the air of mystery such a lyrical and musical approach would demand. Some tracks vary from the basic template to an extent — "November," with its more tribal drums and choral synth background, for instance. But all this said, Ionia remains as one-note in many respects as a Ramones album — but as with the Ramones, if you like the formula, you'll love the whole darn thing. It's all very goth rock, to be sure, but the fact that Vanportfleet prefers understatement in place of the vocal histrionics that can easily mar many a black-shrouded record gives Ionia a very dreamy, floating feel — at the very least, it's excellent mood music, if you like that kind of mood.


Formed: 1988

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Mike Van Portfleet formed Lycia in early 1988 in his hometown of Phoenix. Inspired by post-punk and the ethereal 4AD sound of the '80s, he began experimenting with guitar loops on his four-track recorder. He recruited an old friend, bassist John Fair, to join him, and the two recorded Wake in 1989 for Phoenix's Orphanage Records. Fair left a year later to play with Caterwaul, but Van Portfleet continued to record, sending his demos to the goth-ambient Projekt label. Projekt liked what it heard and...
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