photo & text by nacrowe
what i love about the CALIFORNIA-by-way-of-WASHINGTON STATE INDIE ROCK band LA LUZ' sound is how they essentially explore the HAUNTING POSSIBILITIES of SURF MUSIC from the early 1960s. just tons of reverb, delay and clean tone that are used not to necessarily show off virtuosic DEXTERITY, but as a means of increasing the EMOTIONAL QUOTIENT and AFFECTING PSYCHOLOGICAL POTENTIAL inherent in that unique SONIC TEXTURE. essentially they are deconstructing and RECONFIGURING our expectations as listeners when hearing that sound. its a COMPELLING and UNIQUE sound and their third album, the DAN AUERBACH (of THE BLACK KEYS fame) produced FLOATING FEATURES (HARDLY ART, 2018) is a great example. STELLAR tracks that explore this dynamic include "CICADA," "MEAN DREAM," "THE CREATURE," "CALIFORNIA FINALLY," "FLOATING FEATURES" and "DON'T LEAVE ME ON THE EARTH."
a key aspect of this sound is undoubtedly singer/lead guitarist SHANA CLEVELAND. most singers have their vocals pushed forward in a mix, but throughout their discography LA LUZ have adroitly chosen to have hers pushed back. the effect is that her FRAGILE YEARNING and DEEPLY AFFECTING vocals are enveloped in a COCOON OF SOUND. it renders her voice as another instrument and key ingredient in a seductively MASSIVE sound. one that is on equal pairing with ALICE SANDAHL's keyboard patches and even CLEVELAND's own NIMBLE and highly MEMORABLE guitar leads. it is a sound reminiscent of how GIRL GROUPs like THE CRYSTALS, THE SHIRELLES and, most famously, THE RONETTES were mixed by PHIL SPECTOR back in the 1960s with his famous "WALL OF SOUND" production technique.
that is not to say that this band is retro-minded or overly concerned with the past. as stated before, LA LUZ is very much a REIMAGINING of the classic reverb-drenched SURF MUSIC made famous by THE VENTURES, LINK WRAY and DICK DALE; sonically similar but coming from a completely different DIY PERSPECTIVE. definitely worth checking out.