Power + Light

Review by Andrzej Lukowski for “Drowned in Sound”

Kristin Hersh has flared back to ravenous, inferno intensity with the excoriating Power+Light.

A single 25 minute, 48 second track released as a free download via cashmusic.org at the end of last year, it now reaches us in physical vinyl form. Though divided into seven movements (and arguably two nameless songs, given the need to flip the LP), it feels neither self-indulgent – it’s bruisingly visceral throughout, no ambling build – nor does it come across like a bunch of small tracks cobbled together. Plenty of Hersh compositions are in fact similarly divided: Untitled’s ‘Hate My Way’ and ‘Vicky’s Box’ out-movement ‘Paranoid Android’ in a fraction of the running time. Power+Light is that mode of song, but blown up to monolithic, almost unfathomable proportions. It’s ferociously angry, occasionally very beautiful, and for all its prog-rock running time and tricksy changes in gear, it operates almost entirely at a gut level. Rob Ahlers’ drumming is remarkable, guesting cellist Victor Lawrence owns the unexpected mid-section, and Hersh is incendiary, with firestorms boiling from her battered larynx and brutalised guitar. Reviewing as an album of seven songs seems to be missing the point; assessing it as a regular pop song equally so. Suffice to say it’s one of the most astonishing achievements of Hersh’s career, and here’s a little guide.

0:16 A strolling bassline gives way to a mushroom cloud of hazy, Siamese Dream-esque guitars and thudding, totemic drums.

0:35 “And in some fucking body’s safe house, we’re not the way we intended us, not even close” snarls Hersh, joining the racket.

2:20 Burning snakes of feedback start to choke the early semblances of structure.

2:40 “You coming undone gorgeous, spewing in the hot wind like a virus”

3: 10 The song resets itself, lean and menacing, stalking spirals of lean, hungry riffs.

5:02 “I’d rather be fucking than talking; anyway, they’re both confusing”. The riffs darken and intensify, coalescing to grunge brutality.

6:17 “It’s getting later, later, later, later”, howled over a black turbulence of increasingly violent drums.

9:30 Suddenly the bottom falls of the song, its violence splashing down into a black pool of sonorous cellos and funereal chimes.

12:24 “WASTE OF SPACE” roars a distorted Hersh, her and Ahlers smacking into the funeral march with juggernaut impact.

13:43 Everything stops

13:46 A jagged riff churns up the start of side two, jarring against shards of treated cello. The song takes up something like a pop melody as Hersh sighs the words “do you know what it feels like to be broke?” in a hissing loop.

16:00 A scalding shower of feedback rips into the fragile melody.

16:40 Detuned fluxes of distortion shoot from the maelstrom, hungry electrical arcs.

18:29 The song emerges from the dirty patch as something cleaner and more propulsive, all attack and forward momentum.

19:46 Song finally kicks into what might be called its climax, band throwing everything they have – megaton guitars, lightning strike percussion – as Hersh screams “heads roll and heads roll”, over and over.

20:31 Song dives into its long coda, the cello weaving and keening around Ahlers’ mathy blasts.

24:16 Possibly the hardest drums to ever grace an indie rock record.

24:50-25:48 Meltdown.


15 Responses to Power + Light

  1. Wellington says:

    Is Power + Light available for purchase on a format other than vinyl? Thanks…Kristin you are a goddess…See you in Philly!

  2. kristin says:

    no, but you can download “lossless” audio versions and burn a CD…if that helps. it’s here:



  3. Laine says:

    It needs to be made available in c.d. I want to give this Power + light away this xmas! So brilliant. Why vinyl? Who has a turn table any longer? The last time I remember feeling this moved by rock was with Led Zeppelin, back in high school. I used to do my homework with huge speakers on either side of my ears. My elder brother said, emphatically, “Mom, if she’s not using sign language by the time she’s thirty it will be a miracle.” Thanks for the music.

  4. Laine says:

    Damn. I can’t stop listening to this. It’s so sublime. Even my cats like it.

  5. Laine says:

    “A soggy moun-ting HooooOOOOoooOOOOope!” In all of my years, never have I heard the word, “hope” sung so movingly. The trapdoor tempo changes in Power & Light are amazing. This music is food, sustenance. Thanks again, for producing such abundant fruit.

  6. M Kelter says:

    love this more than i can say. really appreciate the willingness to push these songs out, change their shape, let these sounds find their own duration and life. if i could, i would live inside of your music, it’s always been a kindred stranger. as it stands, i’m content to just listen endlessly, happily. thx for this.

  7. ej says:

    Awesome! I love this piece. Front to back. A rock symphony in three parts of love!

  8. Pål Hagen says:

    I love this record, it’s a masterpiece. I’ve got it on blue vinyl and I love to surprise people by playing it. Most people haven’t heard it before they come to my place and I always get positive comments when playing it. :o) xo <3

  9. Kerina says:

    Love love love this album.

  10. Sarah Morr says:

    I love this track!!! I love how you keep it real and keep a tight connection with your fans. Thank you for birthing these songs, and giving us something to look forward to and love. So, I discovered the talented and unique, Kristin Hersh, when I was in college back in 2001, when I truly needed your music and lyrics in my life. You’ve definitely inspired my own songwriting, and man oh day would I love to perform a song with you one day! Wishful thinking. Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOMORROW, Kristin!!! Love and Light<3

  11. Brian Ferrin says:

    Why 50 Foot Wave wasn’t heralded as geniuses after this release is beyond me.

  12. marmooskapaul says:

    Good lord!!! Would somebody burn a cd of this and I’ll pay for all cast involved to send it to me. I will also put 20$ in the tip jar!!! wallacekq@aol.com

  13. rone says:

    “arguably two nameless songs, given the need to flip the LP”

    They aren’t nameless, if you put it that way: side A is Power, side B is Light. Why not?

  14. Levi says:

    What do you call the movement after “Broke”?

  15. tine says:

    That would be “Wax”.

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