Lightning Dust strikes again with Infinite Light

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      You can't call Lightning Dust a side project anymore. The tag would have been warranted a couple of years ago, back when keyboardist Joshua Wells characterized the duo as something to do during time off from critically acclaimed psych rockers Black Mountain. But now, the members of Lightning Dust have been working too much for the band to be called an afterthought.

      Wells and vocalist-guitarist Amber Webber wrote and recorded their latest album, Infinite Light, on a break from the hard-touring Black Mountain, in which they play drums and sing, respectively. The two are treating this record differently than their first. While Lightning Dust only managed to go on the road once in support of its gorgeously haunted, self-titled 2007 debut, the band is already gearing up for its second trip this year. And judging by some of the cuts on Infinite Light, this newfound wanderlust has seeped into the songwriting. “I Knew” pounds by on punchy drum rolls and heavily strummed acoustic guitars, with Webber singing ecstatically about heading down the highway doing 110. While it sounds like a perfect summation of the two musicians' road-ready lifestyle, the frontwoman quickly sets the record straight.

      “That song isn't really about that,” Webber says with a laugh between sips of red wine, seated alongside her bandmate at a Commercial Drive pub. “It's loosely about the excitement of lust. It's totally not about the road. I just use that as a metaphor.”

      One thing that can't be mistaken, however, is how cheery the tune is, compared with the act's earlier material. While Lightning Dust worked Webber's ghostly vibrato atop Wells's often eerie organ lines, the pair's latest batch of tunes is absolutely uplifting. “The Times” bustles over a bouncing bongo beat, while “History” basks in a shimmering California sunset. Both songs are unmistakably upbeat, with the latter finding her singing, “We'll throw our wishes to the sea/Each time we swim we're reminded of our histories.”

      “I adopted a new outlook on things: roll with the times and everything is going to be fine,” Webber says of her reflective lyrics.

      Also noticeable is how much fuller the band sounds these days. From the sublimely symphonic strings of “Dreamer” to the layers of Wurlitzers, pianos, and synthesizers working off each other on the moody space-folk centrepiece “Never Seen”, there is a lot more going on this time around than there was on Lightning Dust.

      “Instruments take up 20 percent of that album's space,” Wells explains of the band's first full-length. “The rest is just air, basically. That was what we were going for. On this one, we wanted to increase the amount of instrumentation while still keeping this air around it.”

      But by adding more to the sonic template, the combo has had to alter its live show. While early gigs were performed as a two-piece, drummer Ryan Peters and multi-instrumentalist Ashley Webber (Amber's twin sister) have since been added to the lineup.

      “With the new stuff, they're absolutely crucial to us being able to reproduce it in any sense,” Wells says.

      Even though the group presently performs as a quartet, Lightning Dust's songwriting core will remain a duo. This is, after all, the band formerly known as Amber & Josh.

      “We don't have all the time in the world to jam or get together,” Webber says. “We'd be the flakiest bandmates ever.”

      Lightning Dust plays the Biltmore Cabaret next Thursday (August 27).