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Lanterna Brings Music to Photography and Vice Versa

By Michael Henningsen

AUGUST 10, 1998:  It's quite common for press releases to exaggerate the "miracles" they tout; that's simply how the publicity game is played. It is by turns rather seldom for the product in question to live up to the adjectives used to coax one toward it. Perhaps the most dangerous pitfall facing music writers--and critics of any art form for that matter--is the ease with which one can lose perspective based on what other critics, record companies and relatives of band members are saying about the latest flavor of the month. It's difficult to let the art be its own critic, to speak for itself--in part, at least, the result of the critics' ego. When Parasol Records released 2,000 CD copies of what has now been re-released as Lanterna in 1995, it is unlikely that the press release (if indeed one existed) in conjunction with the disc and accompanying photographs could possibly have hyperbolized the package.

Lanterna is the brainchild of ethereal guitarist/composer Henry Frayne (Area, The Moon Seven Times) and photographer Kevin Salemme. The music--12 mostly instrumental tracks that hint marvelously at dreams, hallucinations and the stunning peculiarity of reality--began as a soundtrack to a booklet of landscape photos and was originally released in limited-edition (400) boxed cassette. Popular demand inspired Frayne to re-release the work on CD, this time accompanied by photos taken by Salemme while in the British Isles in addition to the original photos. Frayne and Salemme met during a photo session for The Moon Seven Times. Following the shoot, Frayne gave a copy of the cassette version of Lanterna to Salemme who, armed with a camera and a Walkman, scoured the Irish countryside taking photographs inspired by the music constantly awash in his headphones. The results were as stark and complex as the music itself. Self-described as "the ideal soundtrack for a road movie in slow motion," the current incarnation of Lanterna (Rykodisc) is simply what the listener makes of it, based loosely on the visual and aural images presented by the unique dual sensory format. The music and photos work in tandem, forming a cohesive artistic installation that evolves over the course of the roughly 70 minutes it takes to listen and examine the accompanying images. And the true beauty of the experience is that it's as dependent upon the state of the listener and his or her environment as it is on the tangible art.

Frayne's expressionist guitar work is not unlike that of the Mermen's Jim Thomas. When integrated into his own rolling bass lines and Brendan Gamble's (Poster Children, The Moon Seven Times) subtly complex drumming, the sound that results has an Ennio Morricone brilliance that's quite unlike most instrumental and experimental rock currently on the shelves. The truth is in the compositions themselves rather than in the (respectable) applied virtuosity employed by bands like Tuatara and Critters Buggin'. Fans of Sedona, Ariz.-based quartet Scenic and Midwestern trio For Against will likely find Lanterna to be the brightest light at the end of the tunnel. Other unsuspecting minions are simply in for a jaw-dropping aural and visual experience. Like the press release says, Lanterna takes you wherever you want to go.


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