By Olivia Kapell
Floaters, the full length debut of the Brooklyn-based group Lightning Bug, is characterized by uncertainty. The LP boasts ten tracks that draw from a varied palette of genres: ambient pop, shoegaze, classical, and rock all share the same sonic space as static, distorted pitch, and an overall wariness towards traditional meter. Released in January of this year, the album is a collage of bright synths and ambience that doesn’t decide on a destination point, but rather, explores the exciting limits and crossover points of genre, as well as the possibilities that arise when layering and transforming sound in expected and unexpected ways.
“Gaslit,” fifth on the album and by far the longest track, is emblematic of Floaters’ ambiguity towards genre. The song finds its strength in its juxtaposition of stillness and chaos. Shortly into the track, a voice haphazardly imitates and echoes itself until fading away. The silence transforms into a more palpable, yet still mellow sound. “Gaslit” grows in intensity as the vocals fade once more and electronic strings and a distant voice prod through the texture. The track resolves apprehensively, after all its transformations, when it comes full circle, ending with the sound of static like the track began.
The sense of uncertainty is present throughout Floaters, but becomes most pronounced in the second half of “But Not Anymore,” as a simple and sweet forlorn guitar pattern evolves into a disorderly and metallic reconstruction of itself. The sound becomes borderline apocalyptic with the level of static increasing, the strumming growing louder and more intense, and vocals that anxiously pulsing forward. Yet, as fast as the disorder begins, a traditional guitar and vocal duet rein it back into a more familiar realm.
“The Sparrow” is the most surprising track because of its simplicity. It does not transform and turn in unexpected directions, but instead comprises two minutes of classical piano. The timbre of the piano is distorted which suggests the use of electronics to adjust something performing, in this case, a classical function. This distortion is perhaps a reminder of how an aging piano would sound but also a look into the future with the capabilities of synthetic adjustments to pitch. As often as Floaters looks to the past to evoke a sense of nostalgia, it reminds us of the possibilities of the present moment though this aligning of the old and new.
Lightning Bug’s debut effort tends to cushion chaos and uncertainty in stillness. By the end of the album, the exploration of this uncertainty becomes just as appreciated as the reliance on more familiar elements.
Listen to more Lightning Bug on their Bandcamp.