Visions future and past
Lord Huron headlines First Fridays series at Natural History Museum
By Bliss Bowen 01/03/2013
Artists routinely strive to expand walls of consciousness and otherwise stake out points of entry into alternate worlds with their works, be they tangible creations of paint and clay or sonic landscapes that suggest roiling emotions and emerging possibilities.
The First Fridays series at the Natural History Museum puts a neat spin on that concept, pairing boundary-pushing musicians with scientists whose lectures introduce audiences to worlds past.
This Friday, Dr. Kirk Johnson will talk about a mammoth skeleton and other Ice Age fossils uncovered in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, which should appeal to fans of archaeological detective work. The musical draw of the evening will be Lord Huron, aka enigmatic LA songwriter Ben Schneider, whose “Lonesome Dreams” album explores a mysterious world of his own design.
Yet much of its allure lies in its perceived nostalgia — the sense of a romantic, 19th-century past being explored as Schneider deploys mythic Western images (ghosts, rivers, deserts, lone riders, portentous moons) amidst densely atmospheric, Fleet Foxes-like harmonies, synthesizers and rootsier instrumentation that evokes bygone eras.
The dreamy sound is more memorable than most of the songs, although the haunted narrative of “Ghost on the Shore” stands out: “I’m just a man but I know that I’m damned/ All the dead seem to know where I am/ … Under the waves and the earth of an age/ Lie a thousand old northerners graves/ Deep in the night, when the moon’s glowing bright/ They come rising up in to the light.”
Creatively, the album represents a substantial expansion of Schneider’s idiosyncratic visions. Moving forward from the insular sound of his “Mighty” and “Into the Sun” EPs, he reached out to other players, whose musical realization of his creative visions contributed much to the eventual success of “Lonesome Dreams.” That has made this a good year for Schneider, professionally, with mostly positive press for that has earned him a more prominent position on the national stage.
The album has landed on numerous year’s-best lists just as Schneider is gearing up for a European tour that starts in February. But first he plays one for the hometown crowd, headlining the First Friday series this Friday.
Spaceland Presents First Fridays with Lord Huron and Wildcat! Wildcat! at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, 8-10 p.m. Friday. Aquarium Drunkard’s Justin Gage deejays 5:30-10 p.m. For tickets and other information, call (213) 763-3466 (DINO). lordhuron.com, nhm.org