The Ever Illuminating Lanterna

As the guitar-based brainchild of Henry Frayne moseys towards its 30th year in operation, an expansive new album confirms their importance as one of the great modern acts of American instrumental rock

Henry Frayne is Lanterna (Art: Ron Hart)

Since the heyday of surf and hot rod music in the late 50s/early 60s, instrumental bands have been a consistent staple in rock ‘n’ roll.

And right alongside such fellow modern greats as Tortoise, BADBADNOTGOOD and Battles, Lanterna continues to turn out quality guitar-based soundscapes nearly 30 years after debuting with a self-released, self-titled cassette. The brainchild of Champaign, Illinois-based Henry Frayne, a longtime vet of his town’s underrated local scene, this latest album, Hidden Drives, in fact, was largely inspired by Frayne’s time in such groups as Lodestone Destiny, The Syndicate, Ack-Ack, Area and The Moon Seven Times.

“Hidden Drives features more electric guitar and synthesizer than previous efforts,” explains Frayne. “Most of the songs were written on an old Gibson SG with or without cascading digital echoes suggesting additional harmonies and melody lines.”

Lanterna Hidden Drives, Badman Recording Co 2021

Hidden Drives is the latest Lanterna album Frayne has released on Badman Recording Co, with whom he’s been signed for 20 years now. And it’s been as perfect a home for the guitarist as Takoma was for John Fahey, giving him the room to explore the entire geography of the Michael Brook-meets-Love Tractor style that has been the Lanterna calling card these last three decades.  Listen to compositions like “Maine 262” and “Chagrin Boulevard” to catch the feel.

Elsewhere, Frayne’s work with analog synths continues to paint new hues on the title track, while Frayne’s pal Mike Brosco was urged by the guitarist to “have some fun,” which resulted in five remixes that really open up material like “Cupola” and “Redwoods,” both of which incorporate this really cool arpeggiated dub thing going on with Frayne’s guitar that will remind serious U2 fans of the Irish band’s instrumental work on Wide Awake In America. 

“This gives one a chance to enjoy those instrumental parts that might otherwise go unnoticed on the more upbeat songs,” explains Frayne of Brosco’s treatments. “As a listener, I wish more bands would do this.”

As the group approaches its 30th anniversary in 2022, Hidden Drives is a firm reminder why Lanterna remains a most consistent and crucial ambassador for American instrumental rock. 


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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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