The sound and style of The Self-Help Tapes’ new full-length has been developing slowly on stages around singer-songwriter Kevin Comarda’s home town for over a decade. In that time, audiences have watched transfixed as Comarda’s finespun guitar and synth loops developed into the robust arrangements found on Erit Lux. Drummer Robert Landry (Static Masks) and guitarist Craig Oubre (HiGH) round out the weighty instrumentation, providing the perfect mise en scene for Comarda’s lithe vocals. Recorded by Brian Pretus (Bad Operation) and mixed by Nick Pope (Island Days), the album is rich in textural variety, easing between moments of pastoral synth subtlety and bombastic guitar squall.
A sense of isolation permeates Erit Lux, as though each song exists in its own pocket universe, populated by characters with disparate perspectives but common aspirations: for connection, understanding, and even a little peace. Given the pervasive themes of remoteness and social claustrophobia, one might be forgiven for mistaking this record for a pandemic project. But, while these 10 tracks are undoubtedly germane to life in our uncertain present, they also speak to larger social and political dilemmas of the 21st century. And yet, as the album title assures us, there will be light, a promise The Self-Help Tapes has always implied in its most delicate refrains. “I used to be on fire/ ‘til somebody put me out,” Comarda concludes in the final moments of Erit Lux, and the nostalgia is palpable as the song gives way to a sample of a French Quarter street scene, complete with the Steamboat Natchez’s ever-present calliope song drifting across some forgotten afternoon.