Roundtable Review: Lights & Motion – ‘Reanimation’

Artist Lights & Motion
Album Reanimation
Genre Post-rock / Ambient
Buy/DL Deep Elm Digital
Web Facebook | Soundcloud
Label Deep Elm Records
Released Jan 16 2013
Rating Very Good / Excellent

    In our first roundtable review of 2013 we are examining Lights & Motion’s debut album, ‘Reanimation‘, released January 16th on Deep Elm Records. Lights & Motion is the brainchild of Swedish musician Christoffer Franzén and tends to walk among the lighter side of the genre. Without further ado let’s get to our panel of reviewers —

    “I tend to prefer vocal music to instrumental music. I like stories and words and the emotion and nuance that can be communicated vocally. Furthermore, instrumental music has to try a little harder to sound unique; usually a singer has his own delivery, word choice, enunciation and timbre that sets songs apart. All of that said, Lights & Motion’ s latest, ‘Reanimation‘, is a good example of an instrumental album done well. It sounds like a mixture of Sigur Ros and The End of the Ocean but with acoustic guitar, dedicated string section and a piano holding the melody. Highlights include “Victory Rose” – mellow, pretty track, perfect for a night drive; “Fractured” with a cool piano melody, “Texas” a track that starts with crickets, acoustic and slide guitar, then builds and adds a xylophone; and finally “Dream Away” , which I was pleasantly surprised when the final track had vocals, and a pretty good singer to boot. It serves as a great bookend to the album. The acoustic guitar and prominent piano help to separate this from other post-rock bands I listen to, so I’d rate it as “Excellent“. Well done!” – Tim

    “Let me get this out if the way first and foremost – the debut album from Lights & Motion is a good album. It has all of the crescendos you could hope for, all of the cinematic sounds, and all of the classic post-rock elements. To me, though, that’s part of its downfall. There is literally nothing here that you haven’t heard before – this part sounds like Explosions In The Sky, that part sounds like The Album Leaf, etc. There’s enough of a foundation here to leave me somewhat looking forward to what’s to come, but there just isn’t anything new here. The songs are well executed, they just travel very, very familiar ground.” – Shane

    “I’d heard A LOT of hype around the Lights & Motion release ‘Reanimation.’ Generally I’m pretty wary of anything that’s lavished with excessive praise but I manage to crack this album with an open mind. And you know what? It wasn’t terrible, but I definitely wasn’t blown away. The 13 track-record has its moments. It’s easy to listen to and even edges on greatness, but it just can’t get there. All the songs are catchy in an “I-feel-like-I’ve-heard-this-somewhere-before” kind of way that leaves me wanting to listen to the songs I’m reminded of, not the L&M versions. The perfect example of this is “Aerials.” While arguably one of the better songs on the album, it’s eerily similar to “Your Hand In Mine” by post-rock pros, Explosions In The Sky.
    The production on the album is incredibly clean with all the instrumentation reaching your ears quite clearly but I felt it was lacking in raw passion. Perhaps L&M sacrificed intensity for certain cinematic clarity. I would rate this album as average/solid.  Regardless the album is still pretty enjoyable and worthy of a listen through or two. After that? Who knows.” – Jerome

    “There’s not a lot that i need to say about this album, because if you’re a fan instrumental rock post-Explosions In The Sky then you already know what this sounds like. It’s beautiful, dramatic, powerful, to-the-point, explosive and uplifting. The culmination of everything that post-rock (or a certain school of post-rock) has been trying to achieve for the past decade. It picks your spirits up where all else has failed. It inspires feelings of awe and wonder. It’s music for stargazers. It’s the sound of your first crush and your last love. It’s crescendo-core through and through, but crescendo-core at its finest. A polished and perfected homage to everything that came before it. Is it derivative? Yes. Repetitive? A little. Contrived? Probably. But for any other band to revisit this style of music now would be futile — ‘Reanimation‘ just wont be topped. A must-listen to album.” – Shooter

    “After being bombarded by hype (thanks Deep Elm, bang up job again), I spun ‘Reanimation‘ a few times to get a feel for this ‘breathtaking’ and ‘magical’ release by EITS, GIAA, Lowercase Noises, Dorena, The Best Pessimist, Aerials, I mean Lights & Motion. Does changing your band name, as a solo musician, still allow you to use ‘debut release’ in marketing? Odd. Well, each listen left me unimpressed. I’m more of a fan of energetic, progressive, guitar-based instrumentals over the more emotive, piano-driven offerings but even so, this album provided nothing I haven’t heard on at least twelve other albums over the past seven years. Sure, it’s pretty, well produced and inoffensive – but it isn’t innovative or even noticeable in anything other than the fact it is a new release.  I must have heard that same marching, building drum beat thousands of times over the past few years. You know the one, EITS uses it on every other track. It failed to meet my number one criteria: “Can I recognize the band by the music, without looking?” I’m sure this album will end up on years’ end best of lists, because Deep Elm has excellent marketing skills and a choke hold on mid-major ‘post-rock’ releases. For me, I’ve rated it as a Solid Release – it’s OK, but don’t get your hopes up too high.” – Bothra

    “The first grievance I can see anyone listening to this album having will be that it’s formulaic and derivative. I can’t argue with that point. The first few times I listened to the album, I was ready to walk away calling it an unabashed homage to Explosions in the Sky, M83, and Sigur Ros. But I kept at it because the music has an undertone that deserves recognition. While almost every track is the formula of slow build to giant explosion, this album seems to almost perfect it. Over the course of thirteen tracks, this wears thin, but it still managed to captivate. The songs take hold when the piano is given more time to shine and the thumping drum beats stand off to the side instead of slapping you in the face. Two great examples of how this formula is done so well are “Drift” and “Reanimation“. This is a debut album and I can see this act evolving well over the next few years. Hopefully our next outing with Lights and Motions is more refined and less capable of being slapped on a movie trailer.” – Bryan

    “Deep Elm’s lineup of post-rock talent never ceases to amaze me. The label just seems to have a knack for finding some of the best talent around and ‘Reanimation‘ by Lights & Motion is just further proof of that. ‘Reanimation‘ is chalked full of cinematic flair, ripe with over the top emotion and has those captivating indescribable elements that carry it to its place among the higher echelons of post-rock releases. With top-notch production qualities and fine tuned craftsmanship, I can safely say this is the first truly brilliant post-rock release of 2013 and I think that it sets the bar high insanely high for in that regard. It’s crazy to think that at just three weeks into the new year there is already an album that will undoubtedly be found on many year-end lists and for good reason. ‘Reanimation‘ is an hour plus long magical journey that explores the depths of the soul by seamlessly transitioning between moments of glory, triumph and heartbreak. After dozens of listens I still find myself impressed at the musical mind of Christoffer Franzén (Lights & Motion). That no one particular instrument stands out as clearly being dominant or “better” than the rest speaks volumes to Franzén’s talent.
Prior to the release of this Roundtable Review, I’ve read early rumblings and criticism from those who were quick to dismiss this album as simply another third wave crescendo-core ripoff and I just don’t hear it honestly. There is a difference to me between common similarities and straight up reproducing another band’s style. Sure, there are inspirations found on ‘Reanimation‘ from EITS, and probably more so from Dorena than any other band, but they are just that, inspirations. What sets Lights & Motion apart is the fact that they’ve taken a successful formula and mastered it to include their own artistic interpretation and flair. Obviously there is going to be a little overlap in sound amongst instrumental artists of a specific style within a genre, but I think it’s far too easy to get swept up in trying to point to specific similarities than it is to simply enjoy an album for what it is. Sure “Reanimation” might not tread upon much new ground, but sometimes that’s ok and it shouldn’t detract from the fact that simply put this is an excellent album that needs to be a part of any post-rock fan’s collection.”  – IamHop

Staff Picks – Jerome Marshall’s top 5 albums of 2012

As we continue our staff picks week, today we have 23 year old Jerome Marshall who hails from Texas and is a postrockstar writer, blogger and a copywriter for an ad agency. His favorite bands include This Will Destroy You, If These Trees Could Talk and Giraffes? Giraffes!
1. If These Trees Could Talk – Red Forest
While this album may not have hit me quite as hard “Above the Earth” it’s still easily my favorite post-rock release of the year. ITTCT do an incredibly memorable job combining muscular rhythms with more delicate instrumentation. All the tracks are brilliant, but check out “They Speak With Knives” it’s a quintessential song from this band and for post-rock in general.
2. Save Us From The Archon – How Terrible The Undergrowth’s Jaws That Tangle
This album is an incredible assault through sound waves and it’s a lot to handle. It’s absolutely bursting with wicked guitar lines, tight drums, frenetic chord progressions and hard to remember song names. But damn is it worth it. If you’re into post-metal these guys should definitely be in your top five. Check out “1a” for beefy hooks and shredding that will make you feel inadequate.

3. Prawn – Ships
Another band and album that isn’t strictly within the genre. Ships is a beautiful release from a band that seems to have finally figured out what they want to sound like. Check out “Costa Rica” for a sweet horn section.
4. Portico Quartet – Portico Quartet
Might be closer to jazz than post-rock, but you won’t care. This self titled album is rife with catchy instrumentals throughout, wonderful horns and something called a “Hang”. Check out the album openers “Window Seat” and “Ruins” to be instantly relaxed.
5. When Whales Collide – By Default
Not strictly post-rock. They’re post-hardcore with a heavy post rock influence. Usually with bands like this the post-rock aspects feel like filler but it’s the opposite with “by default” by when whales collide. The EP definitely feels at its strongest when the group dips into their post-rock influences and they end up with interesting tones and beautiful guitar work.

All shall be well (aasbwalmotsbw) – ROODBLAUW – 79%

ROODBLAUW cover art

Written by Jerome Marshall

All shall be well (and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well) aren’t overwhelmingly concerned with sweeping you off your feet. Much like their name implies, they’re more interested in soothing you.

Spanning five songs and 40.8 minutes, ‘ROODBLAUW’, All shall be well’s debut EP, is a thoroughly enjoyable cohesive piece of minimalist post-rock. And man, is it minimalist. After listening to the entire EP three or four times, the only word my brain wanted to use to describe ‘ROODBLAUW’ was “deliberate” and I think that’s exactly what the band wants. Each song is carefully crafted and delivered at an ambling place, and there aren’t many exceptions to this rule. While listening to ‘ROODBLAUW’ your ear might start to want release and explosive dynamics after so much build up, but All shall be well just won’t give it to you. At least not in the manner you expect.

The first track, “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters Our Music Is All Awful Noise And We’re Just A Bunch of No-Goods” comes in at 7:09 and there isn’t one excess note. It takes nearly three whole minutes of subdued organ chords before the listener gets to hear anything that might pique their interest. Eventually the organ fades away and is replaced with warm, softly reverberated guitar licks gently laid over plodding drums, but the song’s pace doesn’t ever pick up.

“Mothers” tapers off and we’re again treated to classic saccharine post-rock guitar work in the song “There will always be at least a thousand things you don’t know.” The production on ‘ROODBLAUW’ is incredibly tight and leaves all the instrumentation feeling very close, creating an intimate experience for the listener. This track is easily the strongest example in my opinion. “thousand things” flows at a slightly quicker pace than “Mothers” but, much like the majority of this release, still refuses to rock harder than hammock.

By the time you get through the next three songs, you’ll understand that All shall be well are exceptionally good at resisting the temptation to explode into grandeur the way most post-rock bands do. They choose to slowly swell their instruments at such a gradual pace by the time it gets loud you don’t recognize it much. “History Is Ever Ours For The Reliving” showcases All shall be well at their loudest but it still displays control and precision rather than passion.

ROODBLAUW’ is far from perfection. At times the subtle dynamics and torpid song flow grow monotonous to the ear and the band’s refusal to experiment with song styles makes the individual tracks flow into each other a little too well. Quite often I would have to double-check the song title when I was listening because it was difficult to distinguish between the songs. But it’s still a worthwhile listen and a solid effort from a new band. Just don’t expect to be lifted to your feet while experiencing this album.

That in mind, this EP is perfect for calm drives, writing to, and any other relaxed activity, which I don’t think the band would have any problem with me saying.

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