Review – League Of Lights – Dreamers Don’t Come Down – by Martin Hutchinson

League Of Lights are an electronic prog-pop duo comprised of Farrah and Richard West. Their third and most accomplished album to date, ‘Dreamers Don’t Come Down’ is an outstanding collection of songs that is redolent in places of early ’80s synth pioneers like John Foxx, as well as ’00s exponents of the genre such as Ladytron.

I was a big fan of the previous release, which was my first exposure to the duo, so was expecting big things from the new album and, as it turns out, I wasn’t to be disappointed…

Describing their modus operandi for the album, Richard explains that “we wanted it to be more piano-driven than our previous release and deliberately utilised a smaller pallet of sounds. We had just recorded the song ‘Modern Living’ [issued as a single in January] and that helped to define how our new material would sound – more open than before with less synths and more space for Farrah’s voice to really lift off. It’s as much about the space as it is about the notes.”

The majority of the album was written and recorded during the 2020 spring/summer lockdown, with Farrah stating that “it is about the past, the present and the future; about taking the best from all that you have been through, the pressures of modern life and keeping your dreams alive in dark times.”

It is well known that I was a child of the 80’s and always loved the electronic sound of the new romantic bands and their like. Album opener Modern Living feels like a clever amalgam of Pet Shop Boys channelling their inner early Spandau Ballet (before they went all pop ballad!). What is evident from the start is how much Farrah’s incredible voice adds to the songs and gives League Of Lights something different and unique, a powerful start to the album.

Twenty Twenty One is just beautiful, Farrah’s sublime, ethereal like vocal blends sympathetically with Richard’s almost orchestral instrumentation arrangement. A calm and reflective piece of music that is jewel like in its composition and arrangement, I love it! This gem is followed by the up-tempo delights of Ghosts, I was never a club goer in the 80’s or 90’s (in fact never, full stop!) but the brilliant chorus on this track could have come straight from the dance floor of an iconic bar in Ibiza, it’s a nigh on perfect dance track.

I Still Remember with its wistful, nostalgic feel of hazy, lazy days is another heavenly song with Farrah’s plaintive, dreamlike vocal overlaying the exquisite musical backing. A fast paced, driving, energetic piece of music, Persephone has an urgent feel to the vocals and backing music, a proper nod to classic 80’s electronic pop music that leaves a knowing smile on my face.

Dreamers brings things back down to earth with its measured tempo and mesmerising vocals, an introspective and contemplative song that brings your heart rate right down and leaves in a thoughtful frame of mind. Another brilliant piece of pop music writing, With You has that thing which is a rarity in chart music nowadays, a truly catchy chorus that has you singing along with the upbeat tempo and shimmering melody.

Lines In The Sand is a pared back, reflective song with a cultured and measured feel to the music and mesmeric vocals that are quite hypnotic in effect. The first time I heard the track, I stopped what I was doing and just let its soothing tones wash over me. The Collector sees us getting glammed up, glad rags on and heading off to the club again (metaphorically, obviously in my case!). Another fine, up-tempo track with a killer chorus that this duo just seem to be able to create at will.

Among an album full of brilliant 80’s electro-pop inspired tracks, it’s hard to pick a favourite but, for me, it has to be the moving, melancholy and utterly spellbinding North of The Sun, which, if you are as big a fan of the 80’s as I am, is just over four minutes of near musical perfection. Taking the music widescreen and increasingly dynamic, it’s just a superb song that leads into the album’s final track Echoes of a Dream which is exactly that, a dreamy recap of the last thirty seven minutes. Light of touch and mood, it closes proceedings just about perfectly.

Not only a nod to the past but also a completely relevant piece of music in these present times, ‘Dreamers Don’t Come Down’ is a perfectly crafted collection of pop and electronica infused songs that really hit home. Key to the album is Farrah’s sublime vocal which, added to Richard’s brilliant musicianship, has created something quite wonderful and mesmeric. It is most definitely League of Lights most accomplished release yet and one that is lighting up 2021 for this reviewer at least.

Released 12th March, 2021.

Order direct from the artist here:

Dreamers Don’t Come Down (burningshed.com)

Art pop-rock duo League Of Lights announce new album ‘Dreamers Don’t Come Down’

Single Twenty Twenty One to be released December 4th 2020, Album pre-orders opened December 2nd 2020

Art pop-rock duo LEAGUE OF LIGHTS, comprising married couple Farrah and Richard West (Threshold), are pleased to announce their forthcoming third album Dreamers Don’t Come Down. The follow up to their 2019 album, In The In Between, is due out in March 2021 on the Eightspace label and will be available for pre-order from December 2nd 2020 at https://burningshed.com/tag/League+Of+Lights.
 
With the exception of the first single Twenty Twenty One and Modern Living, all the songs were written and recorded during the Spring/Summer 2020 lockdown in the UK.

The album is about the past, the present and the future – about taking the best from all that you have been through, the pressures of modern life and keeping your dreams alive in dark times,” Farrah West explains.
 
When lockdown started we really felt compelled to do a new album,” Richard West continues. “We had just finished recording a new song called Modern Living and that helped to define how our new material would sound – more open than before with less synths and more space for Farrah’s vocals to really lift off. The songs just started flowing and from that moment we had a new track written, recorded and mixed every 3-4 weeks, starting with Dreamers and Twenty Twenty One and ending with the closing track Echoes of a Dream, a montage of all the other songs on the album.”

Tracklisting:
1.Modern Living
2.Twenty Twenty One
3.Ghosts
4.I Still Remember
5.Persephone
6.Dreamers
7.With You
8.Lines in the Sand
9.The Collector
10.North of the Sun
11.Echoes of a Dream

About League Of Lights
 
After marrying in 1998, Farrah and Richard West relocated to the Czech Republic in 2002 to start a new life together and record new music before later returning to the UK to record their debut album as League Of Lights. In tandem with this activity, Richard had joined progressive metal band Threshold, initially as a session player but later becoming co-writer and co-producer. To date Threshold has released 11 studio albums, charted across Europe and Scandinavia and toured around the globe. Richard has also worked with numerous other bands and was recently awarded an RIAA Certified Gold Disc for his vocal and keyboard production work on the DragonForce album Inhuman Rampage, which sold over 500,000 copies.
 
League Of Lights released their eponymous debut album in 2011, which featured guitarist Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation), bassist Jerry Meehan (Robbie Williams) and drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning). In 2012, the duo recorded the single Forever with Threshold vocalist Glynn Morgan as a guest and performed live with a 40 voice choir.
 
League Of Lights’ acclaimed second album In The In Between was released in late 2019 and contains 14 original songs with a sound that makes room for electronic rock, organic pop, piano, cinematic soundscapes and everything in between, including the singles Kings & Queens and On A Night Like This. Extended versions of three songs from In The In Between were released on the EP Extended Light in March 2020.
 
The band have performed at various live and online events during Summer 2020 including Artrock Festival in Germany (with Ruud Jolie playing guitar), and more live shows are planned for 2021, including an appearance at Winter’s End Festival.
 

Progradar Albums Of The Year 2019

This list is just an opinion, my opinion. These are the albums (and one E.P.) that resonated most with me in the fine music year of 2019.They are not in any particular order apart from my top album of the year…

Big Big Train – Grand Tour

Not an immediate favourite but an excellent grower that slowly insinuated itself into my affections. Big Big Train are very, very good at what they do and the songwriting and production values are on point as ever.

no-man – Love You To Bits

I have no idea what Steven (Wilson) and Tim (Bowness) were on when they came up with the idea for this pulsating masterpiece but, by golly, can they please give some to the rest of what is becoming a very moribund music scene.

Love You To Bits is a utterly fascinating and overwhelmingly entertaining musical adventure with superb dynamism and a diversity rarely seen in the strictures of conventional music.

Just do yourselves a favour and go and buy it, you will not regret it!

Bruce Soord – All This Will Be Yours

Lushly produced by Soord himself and lovingly mastered by fellow The Pineapple Thief member Steve Kitch, All This Will Be Yours is a cultured gem of a record that has created music as a definitive art form. Born from the joy of bringing life into the world and the pain that Soord sees in the privation and hardship of his hometown, this is an album that will linger long in the memory.

Exploring Birdsong – The Thing With Feathers

‘The Thing With Feathers‘ is an utterly absorbing twenty-one minutes of music and delivers an undoubted new talent onto the music scene. Serene and graceful yet with a deep intelligence running throughout, I haven’t been this excited about a new artist in a very, very long time.

Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean

Bent Knee have knocked me sideways with this new release, You Know What They Mean is a collection of amazing musical journeys, some of them seemingly fraught with danger and all of them apparently from minds that seem to exist in an alternate reality to most people. Utterly mad at times and utterly magnificent at others, it has certainly changed my perspective and deserves to be on the awards list at the end of the year. Just one thing, who, exactly, are They?

Franck Carducci – The Answer

The Answer leaves a huge grin on my face, a highly enjoyable cornucopia of musical delights taking you on an amazing journey through 70’s progressive rock, hard rock, funk and pure rock and roll. Containing some utter Carducci gems, this album just keeps getting better and better with every listen and is by far Franck’s most cohesive and impressive work yet.

Human Pyramids – Power Pose

I think Paul and the rest of Human Pyramids have given us what is possibly the most playful, captivating, bewitching and beguiling album of 2019, it’s like a celebration of all that is good in this world delivered wrapped up for you to open on Christmas Day (Yes, that is the release date!). By golly, we really must all have been very good this year…

Afenginn – Klingra

Music for long winter evenings in the company of someone you love, ‘Klingra’ will make time stand still as you listen to every nuance and subtlety, it is an incredibly involving experience that I believe everyone should enjoy at least once.

Rise – Strangers

Music truly is the literature of the heart when it comes to releases like ‘Strangers’, this album is truly a work of musical art created by one of the most avant-garde folk songwriters currently alive. Each track has layers of texture that are almost primeval in nature, each is a living and breathing entity that will take each listener on their own personal journey. I suggest you get your hands on a copy and see where this incredible record takes you.

League Of Lights – In The In Between

What League of Lights have done is written a wonderful homage to the synth-pop highs of the late 80’s and early 90’s and brought it bang up to date for a modern musical world. For me it is chock full of nostalgia and is a wonderful and involving listening experience. Another highlight in a year that is beginning to produce quite a few but don’t take my word for it, go out and buy it and see for yourself!

Rise Twain – Rise Twain

Rise Twain have delivered one of the most impressive debut albums I have heard in quite a long time. The fragile beauty will touch you and the profound depth will move you like nothing else, if you only listen to one new album this year then I implore you to make it this one.

Izz – Don’t Panic

IZZ have returned with what should become an American progressive rock classic. Don’t Panic brings classic prog rock bang up to date for the 21st century and should cement this musical collective as one of the pre-eminent bands of the genre at this moment in time and for many years to come.

Bjørn Riis – A Storm Is Coming

I’m a huge fan of Bjørn Riis and “A Storm Is Coming” has just emphasized what a huge musical talent this man is. Six songs of loss, love and human relations that everyone can relate to make this an album that touches you on a personal level and one that is already one of the year’s outstanding releases.

cosmograf – Mind Over Depth

“Mind Over Depth” is another impressive offering from the talented Mr Armstrong under the Cosmograf moniker and the lack of a narrative proves no detriment at all. Powerful, cinematic and enigmatic, all the plaudits this release is garnering are richly deserved and will hopefully attract a new audience to Robin’s music.

And so we come to the album that has stood the test of time and really deserved the ‘Album of the Year’ gong from me…

Moron Police – A Boat On The Sea

I honestly cannot remember having this much fun listening to a record in a very long time, there’s an utter freedom to the songs and the music, an almost childlike immunity to the cares of the world. With everything that is happening in the so-called civilized world today, we could all do with a dose of the magical Moron Police in our life so do yourselves a favor and buy this album, you will never regret it!

So that wraps up 2019 but 2020 is already looking like another year of stellar releases. This list is as subjective as they come and it is just my opinion, see you on the other side for more of the same…

Album Review – League of Lights – In The In Between

League of Lights – the electronic rock/synth pop duo featuring couple Farrah and Richard West.

Farrah and Richard met on the outskirts of London, crossing paths for the first time in the mid 1990’s. Many years later they assembled a stellar cast of luminaries comprising Dutch guitarist Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation), American drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning) and fellow Brit Jerry Meehan (Robbie Williams) to guest on their debut album in 2011. Simply entitled ‘League of Lights‘, the album fused elements of pop, rock and metal into their own unique blend.

“We come from very different musical backgrounds,” says Richard, “and League of Lights is all about where we meet in the middle. It couldn’t exist without both of us”.

The following year the duo teamed up with Glynn Morgan (Threshold) to record the single “Forever”. The three also performed together on stage for a unique concert backed by a 40-voice choir.

Now in 2019 Farrah and Richard are back with a new album ‘In the in Between’ that showcases Farrah’s sublime and enchanting vocals across 14 new original songs with a sound that makes room for electronic rock, synth pop, piano, cinematic soundscapes and everything in between.

“It’s been a long journey to get here,” says Farrah. “From the day we recorded our first song together we’ve been working towards creating something that combines the heart of who we are. We’re really proud to have reached this point on our journey “.

Photo courtesy of Dariusz Szermanowicz at Grupa13

“It took us a little while, but I’m so proud to share our new League of Lights music with you.”, Richard goes on to say, “It’s just me and Farrah doing everything this time – in the past we’ve collaborated with such talented musicians and good friends, but this time we wanted to make something that was 100% ourselves. So we hope you love it as much as we do!”

Most of you will know Richard from being a co-founder of the legendary prog-metal group Threshold but he also released an album with Dec Burke and Simon Andersson in 2015 under the name AudioPlastik and, to these ears, League of Lights is definitely more comparable with the latter.

To be honest this album is chock full of catchy hooks, brilliant vocals from Farrah and Richard’s distinctive keyboard sounds. I have had it on repeat ever since I was sent the promo and it is rapidly becoming a favourite which, knowing what music usually floats my boat, has come as a little bit of a surprise.

Songs like Due Diligence and Spectrometer could easily grace the mainstream dance charts with their infectious rhythms and driving beats and the icing on the cake is Farrah’s honeyed, mellifluous vocals that harks back to the great synth-pop anthems of the 90’s.

Opener Shockwave has a more direct and harder edge and you can hear the rockier side of Richard’s keyboard playing, surely a track that will become a live favourite with the soaring chorus and sing-along verse.

The whole album is just one incredibly addictive hit of excellent songwriting and serious musical talent that continues to deliver track after track. The ethereal beauty of Scarlet Thread, the 80’s electronic grooves of Down Down and the ambient EDM vibe of Strong Enough, the quality just never dips.

The best is kept until last which, for a record of this sheer quality, is quite a thing to say. Hammer is an intense, powerful song where Farrah’s voice captivates and enthralls and Kings and Queens is, for me, the highlight of a stand out album. It hypnotises and mesmerises throughout its intriguing three and a half minute running time. The measured delivery of the stylish vocals and the brilliant guitar motif give the song some real gravity and depth, one of the best I’ve heard this year and that’s saying something.

The passion continues with the symphonic/synth prog influxed Roll and List, another elegant and exquisite piece of music and the album closes with Promises and Dreams, another track that would have graced the 90’s with its sublime grace.

What League of Lights have done is written a wonderful homage to the synth-pop highs of the late 80’s and early 90’s and brought it bang up to date for a modern musical world. For me it is chock full of nostalgia and is a wonderful and involving listening experience. Another highlight in a year that is beginning to produce quite a few but don’t take my word for it, go out and buy it and see for yourself!

Released 27th September 2019

Order direct from League of lights:

https://leagueoflights.com/shop/