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Lux Interna - [a lantern carried in blood and skin]

[a lantern carried in blood and skin] is an anthology from the American group Lux Interna compiled for the US label Projekt containing a selection of tracks from the three Lux Interna albums (Absence and Plenum, Ignis Mutat Res, :God Is Not Dead For The Birds: ) issued by the German label Eis & Licht. Lux Interna formed in 1999 and the material stretches back to 2002 recorded at various points during their travels in Europe and in their native homeland of America.

With their songs steeped in a spiritual and romantic tradition Lux Interna sit within the dark folk genre. Their music is primarily acoustic folk, swathed in string arrangements, but just as their erudite and poetic lyrics delivered by the twin vocalists, Joshua and Kathryn Gentzke, seek to locate the divine, their music strives to break free of the confines of the neo-folk genre. [a lantern carried in blood and skin] carries elements of dark Americana, ethereal folk music, misty atmospherics and at points the voices combine to create something closer to country and western.

You can piece together the trajectory of the group through the selection of tracks from the skeletal acoustic tracks of 'For An Autumn Girl' and 'Flowers Under Glass', where Kathryn's delicate tones takes the lead over the still, frosted setting of piano, guitar and tambourine accompaniment. These contributions from Absence and Plenum are sparse when compared to the rich arrangements of Ignis Mutat Res. The forceful ringing dark folk and dramatic strings of 'Horizon' where Joshua Gentzke voice resonates deeply, shadowed by the smooth gentle female voice of his wife, Kathryn is a strong opening track. And while 'Horizon' shares an affinity with fellow Americans Backworld, 'A Season Apart' captures a feeling of desperation as Gentzke's impassioned cries break over heavy piano chords, giving way to rolling drums before settling into a sort of decadent European feel as violins scrape furiously as an agglomeration of voices combine to intone: "this rune is carved in skin, yet deeper within..." It's impressive stuff.

Lux Interna really reach their pinnacle on the songs from last year's :God Is Not Dead For The Birds: The songs are wonderfully constructed, laced with Christian symbolism and strewn with references to the seasons and the elements. Both 'Into Nothing (Blackwatersong)' and 'Your Lily White Hands' are especially good. Joshua's strained emotive deep voice contrasts with the light ethereal backing of Kathryn on the plaintive acoustic strum of 'Into Nothing (Blackwatersong)'. "Sail on into nothing" the voices sing as a violin plays a mournful melody. Better still is 'Your Lily White Hands' a breezy number of acoustic pick and strum, tremeloed guitar and string arrangements where Joshua's cracked drawl is softened by the gentle female harmonies. A wonderful track comparable to Michael Gira's work as the Angels of Light.

There's a warmth to 'Fallen', as the voices merge over a lilting ballad of acoustic guitars augmented by cello, dulcimer and mandolin. 'Blossoms', a gentle piano ballad with finger picked guitar, is captivating in its simplicity, Gentzke's impassioned voice declaring that "we envy the flight of the birds, for whom god is not dead" with a breathy female accompaniment that pushes this into almost dark country territory.

[a lantern carried in blood and skin] is awash with references to feelings of emptiness and nothingness as Joshua Gentzke wrestles with the question of existence and what it means to be human. That it is dressed up in a set of dreamily sad and haunting songs with a take on Christianity that's as distinctive as that of David Tibet and Nick Cave is a testament to their worth. [a lantern carried in blood and skin] is a worthwhile entry to the world of Lux Interna but interested readers may care to also check out the Eis & Licht release :God Is Not Dead For The Birds: a more fully realised release that captures the current sound of Lux Interna. For more information go to