CD, Brume Records, 2006
Gaia was the Greek goddess that personified the Earth and it may also refer to the Gaia theory that considers planet Earth as a self-regulating organism. These concepts, in particular the latter, form the basis for Lith’s latest album. Aptly titled, this concept album features tracks which evoke a variety of issues, from the destruction of the planet by the human species to the possibility of living in harmony with it, as well as a focus on tribal themes.
Lith is a relatively well-known act from the French noise industrial scene and has released some rather noteworthy material since its inception, usually revolving around the use of distorted rhythmic structures incorporating strong trance and tribal influences. “Gaia”, his most recent album, presents a departure of sorts from his previous sound and may appear to some as something of an uneven album, walking the ‘grey area’ between chill-out and harder sounds. It is less intense than previous releases and, at times, gives the impression that Lith may still be ‘testing the waters’ of new sound ideas with sound concepts haven’t reached full maturity yet, despite having definite potential. As a concept album though, “Gaia” seems well thought out and has the technical quality one would expect from an artist as Lith.
This is very far from a bad album, quite the opposite, but some composition structures may be seen as flawed and not easy to grasp by a more casual listener (though more attentive listeners are sure to find a few interesting surprises). One of the main reasons for this is the contrast between the rhythms (which rely on a very deep bass) and the high-pitched samples and creaks; an interesting and effective idea, no doubt, but its effectiveness can be lost if one isn’t aware of it. On occasion, some tracks also tend to lose their grip on the listener, though this may not necessarily be a flaw in itself, especially considering the admittedly chill-out nature of “Gaia”.
Thematically, the album is divided into two parts, the first dealing with corruption of the planet (from “Katami” to “Imperialism”) and the second focusing on tribal ethnic groups and primal nature. It starts fairly abruptly with “Katami”, a glitchy, beat-driven intro that is surprising in that it starts so suddenly without any build-up and which leads into “Hiroshima”, a track which is something of a highlight of the album: dance-oriented without being too noisy, the use of mournful female chanting giving it a sense of melody. Other good tracks include “Forgotten Ethnies” which mixes an almost breakcore-style beat with some interesting glitch sounds, and “Amazon” which is the most melodic track on “Gaia” and features some beautiful sweeping keyboard sounds, coupled with an almost tribal beat. The fast-paced “Sentinelese” is another highlight in the second part and a track in which the sound dichotomy mentioned above works to great effect.
In the remix tracks, even though the Muckrackers give Lith a proper beating with their Vietnam conflict-allusive remix of “Species”, it is Antigen Shift’s “Rhythm Mix” of the title track “Gaia” – more in keeping with previous Lith releases with beautiful orchestration with a dance rhythm – that is easily the best track of this last batch. The original versions of the remixed tracks are available as videos in the “Gaia Extended Works” data section of the album and feature a more confrontational side to Lith.
— Miguel de Sousa & Kate Turgoose