Album Review: Control Burn by Justin Lacy

by Maria Borghoff

Justin Lacy is a Wilmington based artist with his hands moving in many directions. He recently released a new album Control Burn that depicts a breadth of musical flavors that is refreshing, haunting, and mystical, all at the same time. Using countless instruments, layered vocals, and collected noises, Lacy composes sound landscapes that draw you into another dimension. The performances seem to embody a whimsical and animated quality, enchanting audience members and captivating each of their senses through sound, color, light, and stage props. The music alone is alluring enough, inviting listeners to follow the ride, but I can imagine the live performances to be even more mesmerizing and descriptive of Lacy's artistic and personal journey.

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Upon first glance of performance photos and imagery, I was intrigued. After listening to the collection of ten tracks and reflecting on Lacy's chosen title, Control Burn, I discovered a whole new complexity and reason to fall in love with the music even more. Here’s why...

My father works as a consulting forester to help people who own land with natural forests. He manages the land by conducting timber cruises, reforestation and prescribed burning. As a child, I remember when the burn season would come around, sometime during the winter when it's not too wet and not too dry. My dad would get home late at night covered with black soot from head to toe. He looked both totally exhausted yet revitalized. I was completely enamored with a sense of awe, imagining him in the woods circling a large fire as the underbrush burned away to give new life to the trees. I felt this deep respect for him, and I admired his ability to both control and care for nature.

Controlled burns are forestry techniques that are also known as a hazard reduction. If you are unfamiliar with this approach to land management, it’s easy to think that all forest fires fall within the same category and that all forest fires are a negative thing. But the purpose of a controlled burn is not to desecrate a forest. Instead, it is one way to responsibly live off of the land, to engage with the wildness of nature and to harness it's life-giving potential.

Speaking to the true experience of managing a raging fire, Control Burn celebrates the boundless power of nature while maintaining a strong connection to the limitations of reality.

Maria Borghoff