By Brock ThiessenSide projects like Lightning Dust are an interesting little paradox. For listeners, they strengthen bonds to larger, well-established parent projects, yet for musicians, they often give those bonds a rest — if only for a little while.
In the case of songwriters Amber Webber and Joshua Wells, such a breather came in the hot, coastal summer of last year. Following some downtime with retro-rock outfit Black Mountain — where Wells plays the role of drummer and Webber, backing vocalist — the Vancouver couple set out to start a project of their own.
"Based on the way we started playing together, we wanted to do something that was sparse and minimal, and with a lot of space around it,” Wells explains. "We also wanted something more dramatic or theatrical, rather than a band or rock-n-roll aesthetic.”
And on their self-titled Jagjagwuar debut, the duo has definitely taken this subdued, bare-bones approach to heart. Lightning Dust’s album slowly creeps by with piano figures, vintage synths and softly strummed guitars, rarely breaking out a drum beat or much of anything that could be considered rockin’. Overall, to Wells, the album possesses a very wintry quality, sounding like "something winter would create” — not the heat-drenched summer.
However, with Webber’s strong, wavering voice floating above this airy backdrop, the album sounds far from empty. Like in Black Mountain, her style brings an ethereal and otherworldly element to the project, packing Lightning Dust with a hefty emotional jab — not the same as Black Mountain’s powering uppercut, but a punch nonetheless.
And as dark as this all may sound, Wells is clear to point out point out that he doesn’t necessarily consider Lightning Dust’s album to be a "gloomy” one. "I’d say it’s more a record of exaggerated emotions, whether it’s a high sort of feeling or a low one,” he says. "And really, it’s more about melodrama than just feeling gloomy.”