Lanayah – I’m Picking Lights in a Field…
6.26.23 by Matty McPherson
Lanayah, “a ‘fairly unclassifiable blackened screamo’ collective based in Santa Barbara, CA & Seattle, WA” [at the House of Drongo], ought to be a household name. Well, in reality, they were sorta a household name if you happened to know the Santa Barabara/Ventura/805 scene AND/OR Drongo tapes back around 2019 and the fateful pre-pandemic weeks of 2020. Lanayah have long been gestating in that region, with a Bandcamp release dating back to 2016, but a proper Drongo debut from 2019, Forever in May. That later one made small waves amongst a few dedicated individuals–Thom from Planning for Burial, if I recall correctly, was a staunch supporter of the album during that time. And for good reason. Forever in May was an absolutely bonkers lil’ doomgaze tape that seemed particularly focused on finding precarious snippets of downtime, droning and crashing into something mighty. The trance characteristics, amongst the heavy bliss out that was hiding underneath it all, would become especially apparent during an auditorium show where I’d be introduced to the gang of Will (vocals/head screamer), Lynn (guitars), Ethan (drums), and Ari (synths, kyma, organ, tape loops/tactical warfare guru).
Now nearly four years later, and after another era of gestating, the Lanayah collective has returned in new form. Ethan may have left, with Michael Tsang now performs drum duties; meanwhile both Isabelle Thorn (of Dear Laika, half a world away) & Elliott Hansen (CEO of Drongo Tapes) fill in vocal and tape loop auxiliary roles, respectively. Everyone’s contribution reveal I’m Picking Lights in a Field… as an airtight C41 that sees the collective both paying attention to larger shifts in online heavy music, while also dialing in their own ability to cast off ecstatic, divine compositions with immense precision. The kinds that you accept whole and take everything.
A lot happens in four years, enough that renders the tape’s 8 tracks as bonafide genre polyglots. Sewn together to reflect the brilliant, tumultuous pacing shifts that keep yr ears perked up. Lanayah’s capacity for the ethereal had been noted last go around. And now there’s a greater sense of space and varied tension in cuts thanks largely to the auxiliary players and the main lineup’s dedication to explore these textures. Sometimes, like the staunch opener Aspen, there’s a digital crunch enough to carry the tension, and even in the case of Peak and Core, it becomes the framework for its own kind of wobbly, wonky quietLOUDquiet cut. While other times, like in Staring Blankly, it operates as an intricate detail in the mix; an extra crispness that recalls the effortless work Loathe amounted to on their 2020 metalcore masterstroke. This is all but confirmed with Picking Lights in a Field. It’s a highlight, not an interlude, that strips away all tension to revea the production on the loop’s acting as a memory of a memory. The cut itself recalls alternative rock demos, but then strips it down until its wailing effervescence amongst skyscrapers in the distant lights. If there’s one area for heavy, cyborg-esque metalcore music to continue exploring, it’s here.
Yet unlike Loathe, Lanayah can write sub-90 second sludge punk that functions as either an intro to a piece (Insects in their Immersion), or an intricate moment to a song. Knife, Mirror in particular finds that sludgy energy and marries it under a blackened rainbow of a synth line that blisters forward during reverent choruses that actively make me want to melt like a popsicle in the sun. It truly feels like letting everything go. Especially as things pick up on the superblast of a closer, Carrying Fire. It’s an all killer, no filler closer; the kind where knotty riffs and wailing guitars burst into massive fills and uncompromising drones. It’s to the piece’s credit that it repeatedly shifts its bpms and uses everything at its disposal (especially those tape loops and synths) to create an omnibus akin to a steel mill at its most industrious. And it’s fun enough to want to loop back to the start and begin the begin all over again.
Edition of 200 Tapes available now at the Drongo Tapes Bandcamp Page!