Born in 2003 from a desire to find unexplored regions between post-rock and laptop electronica, Lights Out Asia has refined a sound that is best described as the soundtrack to an imaginary club scene from Blade Runner. From a foundation of plush melancholy, the sample-rich melding of dissonant guitar swells, plaintive vocals and intricate electronics leads to songs thoroughly infected by influences ranging from dream pop artist Ulrich Schnauss to ambient pioneer Brian Eno, classic shoegazers My Bloody Valentine and a even dash of IDM stalwart Arovane.
Still, the band—Mike Ystad (electronics), Chris Shafer (guitar and vocals), and Mike Rush (guitar and bass)—is much more than the sum of its musical tastes. True to their intent, Lights Out Asia has planted its flag deep in the heart of no man’s land and draws listeners from camps as disparate as film soundtrack connoisseurs and the 4AD crowd to visceral club kids and atmosphere-huffing headphone fanatics hungry to map-out every little detail. To shackle them to a genre would first require the creation of one that actually fits.
For its first two releases on n5MD—2007’s Tanks and Recognizers and 2008’s Eyes Like Brontide—the trio experimented greatly with pace and volume in creating dynamic, gapless albums with an almost narrative arc that beg to be heard end-to-end. Whether soaring toward the peak of a fully formed “song” or drifting through the opium fog of a short sound collage, each moment in their works acts as a waypoint along a destined path. Although the term “concept album” is overused, few terms better describe the cinematic scope of a Lights Out Asia album.
For their fourth album, In The Days of Jupiter, the band admitted to backing off a bit from the meticulous editing that made their previous works so precise. They also mellowed a little. The wall-of-sound guitar riffs became somewhat dampened with the layer-upon-layer of rhythms were more unified. The soft vocals—words amid a vortex of unpronounceable sounds—even became shyer. While still very much the blueprint of a cathartic cyberpunk noir, In The Days of Jupiter introduced something rather new for LOA—open space. When pressed for a description, Ystad, the group’s electronics specialist, used the word “organic” in his summation.
This brings us to the here and now with their 5th album Hy-brasil. For Hy-Brasil the band is back to the core duo of Mike Ystad and Chris Schafer. The absence of Mike Rush's guitars have left enough open space for the duo to explore more visceral sometimes 'Vangelian' synthwork, warm emotive cello passages and more dexterous electronic beat workouts. From the opening track onward each composition on Hy-Brasil twists and turns through organic and synthetic seamlessly while yielding what could very well be their most dynamic, expansive and universally accessible album to date.