First there’s a slow fade-in, and a twinkle. The chime of synthesizers and guitars swirl, trickle and congeal, and before long, a melody takes shape. This faint specter of a melody soon becomes “Good Feelings,” the lovely and slightly disorienting first track on Chicago-based Light Pollution’s first album, Apparitions. There’s a distance to the music, an ethereal barrier that keeps it mysterious in spite of its accessibility. And as such, it feels almost ghostly. Hence, Apparitions.
The music that Light Pollution creates is an approachable kind of haunting, however. Like fellow aficionados of rack effects Deerhunter and Animal Collective, Light Pollution use noise and effects as a means of building upon already-strong tunes. For as much as Apparitions is a work of densely stacked layers of sonic wizardry, it’s, even more so, a pop album. That first song, “Good Feelings,” doesn’t just make its mark by a slow burning arsenal of reverb and distortion, it quickly becomes more about the melody the band builds up thereafter, ultimately coming together as one of the best tracks on the album.
What follows is a bit more straightforward; “Oh, Ivory!” likely takes its name from the pounding piano hook that drives its peppy pop progression. “Drunk Kids” takes a cue from noise heroes Jesus And Mary Chain by kicking off the trippy ballad with a permutation of the “Be My Baby” drum intro. With “Fever Dreams,” however, Light Pollution steps even farther away from where they began, shrugging off the noise-pop sensibilities (for the most part) in favor of a gorgeous synth pop approach. Album centerpiece “Deyci, Right On” features a lengthy intro of feedback and church organ that slowly bleeds into a stunningly spacious dirge, and “All Night Outside” finds the band returning to a super catchy blend of glorious shoegazer textures and instantly memorable riffs.
Many of the tracks on Apparitions sound hesitant to appear fully fleshed out and approachable beneath their ethereal exterior, but when they do, as on the wonderful “All Night Outside” and “Fever Dreams,” they reveal just the kind of transcendent beauty they’re capable of. That isn’t to say that they don’t do a damn fine job with distant and ghostly. But after you’ve spent 24 hours in a haunted house, you’re probably going to want to have some real human contact.
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.