Right at the start of “A Certain Person”, the opening track on Light Asylum‘s self-released 2010 four-song In Tension EP, is the sound of a horse whinnying. It’s an initially odd choice of sample, especially given that it would serve for most as an impression-forming first introduction to the Brooklyn duo, but it’s one that plants a couple of apt subliminal images; of warriors riding into battle, and of fast-approaching harbingers of the apocalypse. Fittingly, although all four songs from that disc were equally worthy of A-side status, “A Certain Person” is the only one that reappears on the group’s eponymous debut album, out next week on the Mexican Summer label (who last year put out a re-mastered version of the aforementioned EP): this music to soundtrack a retro-futurist armageddon, songs to sing while the world burns all around. Much of this fiery, dramatic vibe is down to vocalist Shannon Funchess, a ready-made superstar-in-waiting who has previously graced recordings by TV On The Radio, Ford & Lopatin and Teengirl Fantasy, and whose lioness roar shares as much common ground with hardcore punk as it does with R&B or pop; think Grace Jones in Tina Turner’s Mad Max role crossed with Arnie in the original Terminator and you’re part way there. Sounding – and looking – as though she would just as soon head-butt you as give you the time of day, Funchess bellows out nihilistic mantras (“Nobody’s innocent!”) and bleak poetry (“Face down in the river, my love”) over Bruno Coviello’s stark, brutal backdrops of overlapping coldwave synths and steam-driven drum machine beats, refracting post-punk and goth shapes through old-skool rave and industrial filters to produce epic black-lit jams like “IPC” and “Hour Fortress” that bridge the gap between The Hacienda circa 1988 and the underground sleaze-dens of any modern metropolis. But beneath the studded leather-clad exterior is a keen pop sensibility and soul to spare, and it’s actually the moments where Funchess’ tender side is exposed that echo longest; the hypnotically looping “Angel Tongue” touches on minimal techno’s blissful repetition, while the stereo-panning slow-motion drum circle “Shallow Tears” and “A Certain Person” are glorious in their elegiac beauty.
Light Asylum is out May 1 on Mexican Summer