Guiding Light

Guide the Lightning

Bleeding Gold

Dec 11, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Guiding Light's debut record is something of a mystery. Biographical information states that the band is led by Chuck Davis and Jason Sebastian Russo, the latter of Mercury Rev and Hopewell. The record sleeve mentions 11 "additional players," none of whose roles are specified (one must be a singer, as many of the vocals are female). A bit of online digging points to filmmaker/dancer/artist/composer Tara Autovino as the vocalist, yet Autovino is not credited anywhere on the album. Incidentally, her own website says that she's half of Guiding Light, with Russo, so is Autovino really Davis? Or vice versa?   

The album artwork is simple, with only the band's name in black on a stark white background. The title, the deliciously subversive Guide the Lightning, is only visible on the album cover's edge. The inner artwork features Russo (presumably) and another person posed as Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons from the Born To Run cover, and also includes an image of the crucified Jesus overlayed on top of a pentagram. In the album notes, the band thanks "everyone, especially Matt Jones, Jesus & Satan."

Despite all this silliness and confusion, the nine songs of Guide the Lightning are some of the most haunting, mesmerizing, and entrancing melodic psych you will hear this year. The album opens with the soulful "Temptation" and "Necessary Truth," a swirling mix with ringing guitar a la Suede. "Jesus" is a slow and deliberate track, its weary vocalist singing the chorus, "Jesus don't love you half as much as I do," with a melody cribbed from The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses." The song devolves into noise and back again, its poor lament sounding like it's constantly on the verge of falling completely to pieces. "High Cost" features chorus melodies and harmonies that shimmer from the speakers as if in gentle psychedelic lullaby until a wild flurry of guitar solo and noise bring the track to its conclusion. "Happy" winds its way around a perfect melody encased in ethereal soundscape, and the title track lopes like an old-time country song, reimagined as a stoner psych anthem.

In nine songs, it's over. Played front to back, the album is too brief at first listen. One feels the need to continually flip it over (the album is available on classic vinyl or tape) and re-listen again and again. It's an immersive experience, and sounds like it was written as such, to be listened to preferably with the lights low. Guide the Lightning (again, ha!) is engulfing. It will ensnare you in its beautiful web.(

Author rating: 8.5/10

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