For closing in on a decade now, multi-instrumentalist (but mainly guitarist) Henry Frayne has been creating ambient-tinged instrumental rock music under the name Lanterna. His woozy, but pleasant tracks (which are comprised of guitar, voice, ARP synth, and drums) evoke images of long drives through landscapes that change only gradually, lulling you into a sense of security and sometimes downright hypnosis.
Although most tracks on Desert Ocean (and his other albums, for that matter) are largely instrumental, Frayne doesn’t veer off into any strange song structures like many of his instrumental rock colleagues. Instead, his tracks usually progress with fairly standard verse/chorus, verse/chorus structures with a few light bridges and breakdowns thrown in for good measure (which is perhaps influenced by his stint as guitarist in the band the Moon Seven Times.
The album begins with the track “Luminous,” and after some soft synth washes and chiming guitars, drums enter the mix and the piece progresses with some widescreen guitar melodies and washed-out drumming. The next couple tracks follow largely the same structure, opening quietly before building instrumentation up and finally winding down again. It’s only on the fourth track “Fog” where Frayne changes things up slightly, leaving out rhythmic elements almost entirely to create a drifting track that does a good job conjuring up the title.
Although Desert Ocean is lush and well put together, it always errs on the safe side of things and there isn’t a harsh edge or out-of-place note on the entire release. Although there’s a little much-needed variety towards the end of the release (including the slightly blues-infected “Cross Country”), there’s an overall lack of variety on the album that drags it down a bit the longer it goes on. As a fan of instrumental music, it almost seems weird to say it, but one thing that the album seems to be missing is vocals (or at least another melodic lynchpin to hold everything together). As mentioned above, it’s a good release for drifting too, but don’t be surprised if it turns into wallpaper without you realizing it.