Still Light is an international collaboration between Edinburgh-based singer/songwriter Lucy Hague, Colorado’s Kirill Nikolai, and artist Sand Snowman from London. The album "Lything" is the group's first joint release, and it was initially released as a CD-R-pressing of mere 50 copies. The album got re-released in 2010 as an LP, this time as a pressing of 300 units. The promo-version was a digital one, so I naturally have very little idea of how the actual packaging looks like and whether the lyrics and such are included.
"Lything" presents almost forty minutes of skillfully crafted and highly atmospheric dark folk. The opening six-minuter is driven by acoustic melodies (seemingly by two different guitars) and held-back drums to give it some extra kick, but that's just the barest base structure. The song's backed by soft ambient-synths and has a section with a surprisingly prominent flute-melody, and by this it should already be clear how much skill and good taste has gone to making this album. The soft and gentle male and female vocals operate in a seamless unison akin to the guitars, and add the final touch of melancholy and honesty to the song.
You now know the basics of Still Light's expression. This basic formula is employed to create some more even calmer and minimalistic moods in "A Remedy," whereas the ten-minute song "August" presents it in a more folkish and freely flowing manner. "Tenebre" is a slightly more cheerful one due to lighter percussions and a boldly plucking banjo taking the lead. All of these songs are similar in the sense that you know they're made by the same group and carry a similar emotional feel, but are still clearly distinctive from each other.
To show an even bolder and clearly more experimental side of the band, we have the two remaining songs. They create a calmer and less emotionally charged pause between the aforementioned song, thus keeping the album's feel from becoming too familiar or boring to the listener. "Footprints" matches calmly plucking acoustic strings together with '70s-sounding synths and background ambience-drone to create a clean, serene atmosphere, on which there's an older woman sharing her memories. The speech-sample has a nicely worn-out sound, which makes the speaking suit the atmosphere without sticking out. "Hour of the Wolf" is a shorter and way more abstract piece that brings a nocturnal steppe to my mind; metallic clangs, distant howling, and a feel of being surrounded by the unknown. Although it doesn't shine on its own, it gives the album a fitting switch in the atmospheres to clean the listener's pallette before the seven-minute closing number.
The album's played on a large amount of instruments, so you can be sure there's some fine and subtle details and different shades and tones just waiting to be discovered. The instruments include acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, bass, organ, harmonium, mellotron, tin whistle, various percussions, and more. Some pre-recorded samples and ambient-drones are also employed, and those together with the mellotron create some stylishly experimental and atmospheric bridges and backgrounds for the more concrete structures.
The different sounds and elements come together in a surprisingly natural vein, especially when one remembers that the three parttaking artists recorded their parts separately in different places and environments. The album is a child of time and effort, and carries a lot of honest emotion. If melancholic folk is your thing and you have enough time on your hands to relax while giving "Lything" the forty minutes it needs, you should definitely buy the album. It might help if you aren't scared of experimental tones and fragments of ambient. As a final note, I highly appreciate the organic soundscape; it doesn't sound perfectioned, but living and breathing.