D Lion releases Northern Lights (EP)
Sometimes a mere strand of melodic ribbonry can communicate more without lyrics than it can with their company, and that’s exactly what transpires in the “Aurora,” “Majic” and “St. Catherine,” the three songs comprising the new record from JD Lion, Northern Lights, which is out this spring everywhere quality indie ambient music is sold and streamed. In this trio of tracks, Lion relies more on ambient textures and melodicism of the most surreal variety to unfurl a narrative to his listeners, and though this isn’t the first occasion on which the Austin-stationed songwriter has wowed the press and fans with his sonic experimentations, I don’t think I’ll be the only critic to say that this record is definitely some of his best work yet.
“Majic,” the shortest song on the extended play, is probably the most mature that Lion has ever sounded within the studio in his career thus far, but I think it’s worth pointing out that this song doesn’t dwarf the creative depth of its two tracklist neighbors here at all. There’s a tremendous amount of flexibility to the framework of this composition, and as a theme throughout Northern Lights, and though it could have been easily amplified to sound and feel like a larger than life demonstration of monolithic psychedelia, Lion approaches it with a minimalism-inspired attack that lets us enjoy all of its plodding virtuosities as they were meant to be consumed – in slow sips, not dissimilar to a glass of aged single malt scotch.
I would be very interested in finding out how much of “St. Catherine” and “Aurora” were born out of improvisational jams as opposed to the traditional writing sessions many of his closest rivals would engage in, as I think both of these tracks exude a freeform, unrehearsed style of play that, if he can replicate the format on stage, could lead to some really impressive live performances from JD Lion in the future. Even when he’s laying into as experimental a groove as he can from within the confines of four studio walls, Lion never sounds unfocused in his attack here, which is more than can be said for some of the most lauded players making headlines on the mainstream side of the dial this year.
If what I’m hearing in Northern Lights is going to be on par with what we can expect to get out of future JD Lion releases, then I would place a hefty wager on seeing his name in the spotlight a lot more often in the months and years that follow this record’s official arrival. Northern Lights feels like a glimpse into a world of ambient experimentation that has incredible potential to evolve into something bigger and bolder than any of us could expect it to, and with more disciplined efforts from JD Lion in the future, I think he’s going to find himself a lot of success both in the scene that gave him his start as well as in an international underground market hungry for more from an artist of his high caliber.