The debut album by Fulton Lights, the name under which Andrew Spencer Goldman records, is, a bit ironically, one seriously deficient of light. It is a haunting, late night record, of rainy drunken walks home and of nagging obsessions keeping one from sleeping. It’s not a record to accompany one’s leisure activities or household chores, or even one to spin while sitting at work, entering meaningless figures into Excel and sipping at tepid coffee. No, Fulton Lights isn’t carefree background music for work or play; it’s something much less tangible than that.
Goldman and a revolving cast of musicians construct a dim, flickering world of sonic subtlety, slowly inching its way through the ears into one’s consciousness. Guitars slide and weep, drone and buzz, but never roar or jangle. Oktopus, of Dälek fame, even lends a bit of divergence from stark, ambient arrangements with some solid boom-bap on a track or two, giving the moody, hip-hop influenced atmosphere a Massive Attack-like quality, though without 3D’s penchant for dense, exotic arrangements. Yet unlike Oktopus’ other project, Fulton Lights is more melancholy and soporific than pummeling and fierce. Goldman’s stark songwriting and lyrical yarns of isolation and sadness are a far cry from most recording projects featuring noted apocalyptic beatmasters, but the contrast is chilling enough that it somehow works.
“Thank God for the Evening News,” with its allusions to 9/11 and the Bush Administration avoids the approach taken by Green Day and weaves satirical, yet gruesome images between gliding strings and the gentle strikes of piano keys, as Goldman sings “lying there on the corner as the pavement turned red/ with his last breath he said work hard and you’ll get ahead.” The steady beats of “1,000 Little Eyes” hit with a bit more impact, though the ambient noise and minimal guitar riffs offset its thudding four-four. “The Sound of the City” carries a lengthy, fuzzy drone, approximating the blur of people and vehicles going by in New York, a city rife with chaos, in which the narrator hopes to catch a brief pause: “I want to hear the absence of electrical hum.”
On “Fire in the Palm of My Hand,” the major key progression almost suggests a shift toward hope, but the song speaks more of loss and of obsolescence. As Goldman sings, “oh you’re in a bad way, when you lost your fire, oh a bad way,” one can feel the regret in having shed something special. This song just seems to display best why Fulton Lights are not a daytime band. This sort of longing and tear-streaked lament just seems out of place when the world is active, productive and happy. It’s when the world slows down, turns off and everyone resigns to their homes, their fears and their regrets that this album really begins to find an audience.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.