Now Available on Vinyl, the 2021 Full-Length Visual Album from Onyx Lane's Founders is a Post-Classical Triumph
The above refrain is the thematic thread running through last year’s album, Cube of Light, released by Onyx Lane producers Christina Giacona and Patrick Conlon. First greeted by a solo statement of this poetic picture, painted by vocalist Erica Downs, listeners are quickly ushered into a vibrant, ethereal world of musical light where an electronic soundscape washes over the ears and invites them to relax and immerse within the mind of the artist.
The artist – not just Giacona or Conlon but the personification of creativity and the identity found in giving up part of one’s self to display before the rest of the world, the intrinsic meaningfulness of art itself – is at the core of the experience delivered by Onyx Lane in Cube of Light, and this is evidenced by the history of the project.
According to Conlon, “It was originally a smaller project that was supposed to be part of an art gallery exhibit in Edmond back in April 2020, but with the pandemic we ended up having more time… and ended up recording a socially distanced orchestra, a bunch of analog synths like the Prophet-6, and full rock band and expanding it into seven music videos choreographed by six different choreographers for a full-length visual album. All done in OKC.”
Additionally, the album draws inspiration from two art installations, Olafur Eliasson’s 1 m3 light and Leo Villarreal’s Star Ceiling. Clearly a work of artistic intersectionality, Cube of Light exemplifies its background in visual art exhibition through an atmospheric approach in which tracks are less directional than most pop songs, instead developing an extensive sound world where listeners might feel at home reflecting in a dark-room, contemporary art display.
From instrumentation to texture and even the basic, compositional techniques of melodic and harmonic construction, Giacona and Conlon have produced a thoroughly captivating experience in Cube of Light that, through sound alone, evokes mental imagery of luminescent points and polyhedrons shining through the darkness. Perhaps this is to be expected given the background of the work, but it is telling that one can experience the album so vividly even without this foreknowledge (I speak from personal experience). They also do a wonderful job of taking more traditional or antiquated concepts in music composition and combining them with post-classical techniques and contemporary pop sonorities. The end result is a musical experience that is not only accessible and energizing, but also compelling in an academic capacity.
To top it all off, the album is suitable in a wide variety of audio renderings, and it is even available to resurgent vintagists thanks to a recent vinyl run. The new (old?) medium notwithstanding, the versatility of the production’s audio qualities is yet another testament to the music’s art gallery inspired inception. And as mentioned before, the album is also set to a series of locally produced and choreographed music videos, thus providing a dynamic, visual component to complete the already immersive experience.
For all of its shiny appeal or intense, musical depth, Cube of Light is nothing more or less than pure art – it is the heartfelt expression of a soul (or two) longing to be seen in the dark tumult of life. Through the void, a light shines out, seeking another like itself.
Secondary only to the opening phrase about stellar abodes and dreams of shiny shapes, the most prominent, recurring lyric of the album is the plain, guileless, “I just wanna make music.”
It is a statement of a thousand sentiments, and like a cube, its appearance changes dramatically depending on its context and the perspective from which one views it. Fortunately for the listener, Giacona and Conlon framed this wish in many different lights throughout the album, from aspirational to dejected and everything in between. In fact, the statement only grows in meaning as the album unfolds, connecting seemingly disparate sonic worlds into a cohesive progression of artistic experience. To listen to Cube of Light is to experience the path of artistry, walking among stars and dreaming of the surreal, and all of it is driven solely by the simple sentiment – I just want to create.
David is a professional musician with a background in performance, composition, and nonprofit programming for accessible arts education. He enjoys writing, road-tripping with his wife, and playing with their two dogs (lab-pit mix and GSD) and one cat.