Unpopular Advent 2014 - Day 22: The Luxembourg Signal - 'The Luxembourg Signal'
Was there a more handsome record this year than the eponymous debut set by The Luxembourg Signal? With its icicle blue translucent vinyl and its classy, classic Saville-esque sleeve this was a record that reminded me of the magic of the physical artefact. The fact that the vinyl sold out within a breath of its release tells you that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. It helped of course that the music on the grooves sounded every bit as handsome.
We’d been tipped to the probability of a magical album early in the year by the brilliance of lead single ‘Distant Drive’. Some say it was the finest single of the year and they may well be right in that, for with its sparkling guitar lines and motorik rhythm it was one of those records that sounds exactly as its title suggests it ought. Now having spent the majority of life being unable to drive I suspect I have never truly understood the meaning of ‘driving music’. Yet having been behind the wheel for only eight months I would instantly aver that The Luxembourg Signal make a sound that is more custom built for driving (or for travelling in general) than anything much else I can think of. Certainly on an Autumnal afternoon driving the lanes of Haldon forest it was perfection itself.
That notion of travelling was also captured perfectly in the video for the gorgeous ‘We Go On’, with its clips of train, plane, car and bus trips including the truly magical Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway and the wind turbines from the San Gorgiono pass on the way from LA to Palm Springs. With strong personal memories of both places so firmly rooted in my heart it was perhaps inevitable that I would fall in love with both the song and the film. Perhaps too it was inevitable that the feeling of distance and movement permeated the record so deeply, given that the recording of the album was essentially a transatlantic juggling act. And fitting too that the idea of sun kissed desert space meeting dense urban conurbation melded so neatly.
Nowhere was the darkness of the combination better illustrated than on album opener ‘Dying Star’. With it’s Spirea X groove and ‘For Keeps’ space rock guitars, it sounded spectacular, like an enormous collision of matter and anti-matter, which is to say exactly as it ought. One could imagine it as an extended, trippy remix spanning an entire side in a Loop-like or ‘Higher Than The Orb’-like trance. It really was that fine. And yet, and yet, to have done so on this record would be to have missed the point and to that we must give The Luxembourg Signal credit for taking care to reign in the impulse to stretch too far. For it was that precise contrast between the darkness and the light (it is followed on the album by ‘Distant Drive’); the collision between apparently contrasting yet subtly similar moods that made the album such a treasure.