Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lights Out Asia-In the Days of Jupiter

Lights Out Asia's 2008 album "Eyes Like Brontide" was a breath of fresh air in the stagnant, dying genre of post-rock. Instead of doing their best to emulate genre monoliths like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky, Lights Out Asia combined light post-rock guitar motifs with gentle electronica and brooding ambiance, creating something entirely their own. But the main strength of "Eyes Like Brontide" was not its originality, but its vibrance and constant grip on the listener's attention, a huge step away from the laborious build-ups and sweeping song structures of their contemporaries. When I heard the early samples of "In the Days of Jupiter", I was concerned that Lights Out Asia would be taking a step too far into the ambient direction, forsaking their interesting qualities for something less accessible. Fortunately, Lights Out Asia have pleasantly surprised me.

While "In the Days of Jupiter" doesn't have the same coherent theme of "Eyes Like Brontide" (Cold War era paranoia and suspicion), it still manages to tie its eleven quietly simmering tracks together by referencing space via song titles and overall sound. The opening suite of the first three songs seems to be about a journey to Europa, the first two entries symbolizing the slow drift through space with the album's new emphasis on piano and the group's trademark electronic ambiance. But it's not until 13 AM that "In the Days of Jupiter" truly begins to show the band's progress from their last effort. What begins as another lonely space song evolves into a constantly changing, brilliant song highlighted by Chris Schafer's distant, heavenly voice and wrapped up beautifully by a tactful post-rock explosion.

From that point on, the album seems to make it more and more apparent that this isn't Benn Jordan's "Pale Blue Dot", with experimental tracks such as "Then I Hope You Like the Desert" with its poppy-sounding vocal anthems, or "Shifting Sands Sink Ship"s glacial string arrangements. Rather than glaze the listener's eyes over with poorly structured ambient build-ups, Lights Out Asia continue to do what sets them apart from other post-rock giants; they keep the listener engaged by adding interesting arrangements, sounds, and hooks with impeccable timing in each of the eleven tracks. A chord change or a fade-in guitar or a piano melody is all the album needs to capture your attention and suck you into its gorgeous soundscapes depicting the peaceful space voyages like the one on the album's cover.

Lights Out Asia is a must-listen for anyone either looking for some very chill music or to those bored with the sparse pickings post-rock has had to offer over the last five years. Either way, I have yet another soundtrack for stargazing or browsing astronomy pictures.

Listen: 13 AM

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