Mike Connelly's official solo debut as Failing Lights is an outstanding one. Connelly is of course a member of two other well-established musical endeavors-- he serves as one-third of excoriating noise rock trio Hair Police as well as holding down the chair vacated by Aaron Dilloway in Wolf Eyes--but his Failing Lights project is a more subdued affair. It is no less bleak or grim, however, and though the cathartic explosiveness of Hair Police may be lacking, Failing Lights' sense of spacious foreboding is its own uniquely interesting beast.
Opening with the brief "Moon On the First Hunt," a delayed and quickly panned bell sound blends with a slowly increasing feedback drone; the chimes have an immediately evil quality to them that is enhanced by the slowed pitch of the sounds. "Revealing Scene" uses a quietly churning low-end hum to offset a variety of synthesizer crunches and ripples, and the song is capped off by the type of sustained noise textures that might be found in the work of C.C.C.C. or Prurient. In both tracks the atmosphere is one of sodden, creeping dread.
"Serve In Silence" ups the queasy feelings even further, as a detuned acoustic guitar echoes and skitters back and forth across the speakers. Aside from the sheer surprise of hearing an acoustic guitar on a noise record, the piece turns the instrument on its head. No traces of Bailey or Rose are found here. Instead Connelly uses delay, loops, and an eerie melodic sense to create a truly sinister mood, a song for a recurring nightmare. "Telling Artifacts" begins with more traditional Connelly tonalities, balancing high wobbling feedback with menacing dig-your-own-grave metallic scrapes. Rather than piling on destructive layers, the track pulls back into near silence, before stumbling off in the direction of its end. The final piece—"the Comfort Zone"—is at first a long trip into a black hole, again using great restraint and a subtle structure to create a horrifying edifice of unsettling sound. In the song's middle section, what sounds like a guitar and a bass play off each other despairingly before high-pitched whistling synth lines tunnel through the gloom. From there the final third of "Comfort Zone" surprises the listener, as a peaceful organ drone takes the track to its conclusion. After the slow-burning malevolence of the first thirty minutes of the disc, the ending is completely unexpected, like a cleansing shower in a sonic decompression chamber after a bath in thick, boiling sludge.
Brooding and occasionally lacerating, Failing Lights' debut allows Connelly's noisy dexterity room to breathe and curse and sputter at his listeners. Its easy flow belies its hidden threats. Go get it, you'll like it—whether you've previously been a fan of Connelly's other bands or not, this one is worth your time and money. 9/10 -- Mike Griffin (25 August, 2010)