With album art no astronaut would deny makes a good January for his wall calendar and a whole lot of ethereal soundscapes in their suitcase, Lights Out Asia are, for one hour, back in our lives. And the one thing I can say about In The Days of Jupiter is that we are being beamed down upon. We are, finally, being treated the way we always should have from this band; the mysterious blank dot of space, the big planets that fill it, the whole damned transcendent nature of the thing. Why did it take so long for a space rock record, guys?
This is pretty admirable, and the general concept behind In The Days of Jupiter is enough to excite any fan; for a trio of ten-minute climaxes and (short) dissertations on the existence of God, conquering the universe is pretty much the next step. And the more I listen to their latest record I wonder how I never saw it in an album as mysterious as Eyes Like Brontide.
This is the thing, though- that’s exactly what I see in Eyes Like Brontide; an album that shines and shimmers with its electronic decorations, wearing its quiet-loud dynamic proudly and begging the listener to be some sort of emotional passenger, gliding from calm ambient sections to devastating climaxes with more beat than brain.
The shine and shimmer wears off as we approach Jupiter, though. Maybe it’s having heard three Lights Out Asia records before this that pushes me away, but I don’t think so; I’m comfortable with the style these downtempo kids provide, but its execution leaves something to be desired here. In The Days of Jupiter attempts, as always, to soar as one piece of music, told in chapters but ultimately with no track simply in it for itself. Division of the music is more generous this time around, and ultimately it hinders flow more than it embodies it; “All These Worlds are Yours” stays subdued and perhaps even irrelevant as a counterpart to its follow-up, “Except Europa,” which seems to trip over its own feet as it stops and starts the wind to climax.
Enough about the technical though; the real issue I have with In The Days of Jupiter, the first album to go past ten tracks since Garmonia, is what it’s revealed to me. For the first time I feel attached to one side of Lights Out Asia rather than the other, because their downtempo material here begs to come in peace: tracks like “All Is Quiet In The Valley” and “Bye Bye Novemeber” want to glide. They sound as if they are in key with whatever humble, galactic theme In The Days of Jupiter rests on. The small flittering key changes on these tracks are minimalist in their technique, but are styled in emotive fashion that sounds signature of this band. And as for ten-minute epics, give me “Great Men From Unhealthy Ground” over “Shifting Sands Wreck Ships” any day.
That is how I know that I’m not simply tired of Lights Out Asia. There’s no extra dimension to add to an album as densely layered as In The Days of Jupiter, but there’s certainly one to lose. It’s devastating to hear a band throw away an ambient ballad as gorgeous as “13AM” because they’re still hung up on blazing it alight with the post-rock gene, to see that the silence of space has been given over to the familiar, awkward world of distortion and noise. It just doesn’t fit anymore. Lights Out Asia are in the sky, they are not explosions in the sky. What I wouldn’t give to hear them all hushed up.
the skeleton crew quarterly
It was in the bleakest week of winter - end of January, beginning of February – when I first heard Lights Out Asia at a friend’s apartment in Montreal. Through a sampling of what my friend judged as key tracks, maybe three in all, I knew this was neither another post-rock band dabbling in electronics nor anything I could readily compare against. Truly, Tanks and Recognizers delivered that something I’d been missing in my record collection, and nothing’s likely to steal its thunder, now or ever.
What makes Tanks and Recognizers so untouchable isn’t that the 2007 outing’s dynamics can’t be cloned or recycled, but that Lights Out Asia don’t even attempt a victory lap. In the Days Of Jupiter zip-lines out to where Eyes Like Brontide wandered two years ago, then skips a few galaxies for some unspoiled pastures, both alien and ambient. Carried weightless into this unfurling distance by ‘All These Worlds Are Yours’ and encountering first-turmoil on ‘Except Europa’, we listeners have no safety chute to steer free with, no rational opening to abuse the skip-button. Best heard as a whole, In the Days Of Jupiter paces its interplanetary tour with extended bouts of cool electronics and sudden collisions of ferocity, typically trading serene nuances (‘All Is Quiet In the Valley’) for blistering guitar assaults (’13 AM’). Although many of these tracks exude spaciousness and foreboding – like ‘Attempt No Landing Here’, which creeps from a supple chill-out track into a Godspeed! You Black Emperor build – but the explosive electronic-rock marriage evident on Tanks and Recognizers is largely gone. Here, the spectrum gets wider, the poles more extreme, and the journey more intense.
As with any dramatic shift, some fans will cry foul, citing their heavy crescendos and Chris Schafer’s vocals as too absent, too often. Those are fair criticisms for a first-listen scenario – hell, they were mine – but for all of Lights Out Asia’s attention to atmosphere, none of it falters into negative space or, worse, tedium. Alternately, the album’s back-end gets surprisingly antsy, retracing wall-to-wall dance production in ‘Then I Hope You Like the Desert’ and epic rise-then-crumble dynamics on ‘Shifting Sands Wreck Ships’. Like its limitless cover-art, In the Days Of Jupiter keeps blurring the horizon, camouflaging as a meditative affair when emotion is raging just beneath the clouds. There’s no going back, and fortunately, Lights Out Asia knew this before I did.
Lights Out Asia voit le jour en 2003 alors que Chris Shafer et Mike Ystad, tous deux membres de Aurore Rien, décident de se consacrer à un projet moins balisé et plus électronique. Plus tard, ils rencontrent le guitariste Mike Rush. Le groupe a déjà signé deux albums chez n5md. In The Days Of Jupiter arrive à point nommé pour les fans du groupe, qui attendaient la sortie d'un nouveau long format depuis 2007.
Ceux qui connaissent déjà le groupe constateront aisément qu'ils ont cette fois-ci mis le paquet sur l'aspect mélodique. En plus du choix des synthétiseurs utilisés qui donnent une vraie dimension interstellaire à leur belle musique, Lights Out Asia navigue ici entre dream pop tout sauf naïve (All These Worlds Are Yours, All Is Quiet In The Valley), shoegaze venteux et space post-rock. Ceux qui savent écouter constateront la présence d'instruments bien réels (piano, violoncelle), en plus de la guitare de Rush. La présence des voix aurait pu refroidir mais il faut reconnaître qu'elles sont subtilement insérées et donnent un résultat que l'on pourrait qualifier de pastoral. Sauf peut-être sur l'enchaînement Currents Meet The Tide / Then I Hope You Like Desert, où on note quand même un excès de candeur et de mièvrerie. Micro-ébauche de critique qui n'engage que moi, et peut-être ceux qui n'ont pas non plus un coeur qui bat. Au niveau de la musique on ne peut pas reprocher grand chose, la beauté retenue étant une copie difficile à rendre. On aurait peut-être apprécié que les guitares se montrent plus abrasives, comme sur le superbe 13AM, véritable épicentre de l'opus. Le non moins excellent Great Men From Unhealty Ground, plus progressif et plus ambient, nous transporte littéralement vers cette planète où les vents et le gaz sont les seuls compagnons d'infinis déserts de poussière.
Même si les textures sont en majeure partie digitales, Lights Out Asia surpassent plus que facilement la pléthore de sorties post-rock tendant vers l'électronique sucrée et bidonnée qui pullulent actuellement dans les bacs des disquaires faussement indés. Un beau disque qui fait voyager très loin pour pas très cher. Après les sorties de Proem et Bitcrush et avant celles de Dryft et Dalot, n5md ouvre le deuxième semestre de bien belle manière.
That nicely segues into our next entry, doesn’t it? We last heard from this Wisconsin based band, Lights Out Asia, back in 2008, with their release, Eyes Like Brontide. Two years later we are gifted with their fourth full length release, In The Days Of Jupiter, and it’s a doozy! The album opens up with gentle electronic pads, and cut-up robotic voices – an intergalactic journey is ahead… The second track, “Except Europa”, picks up with tight IDM beats and slowly builds up into the explosion of sound, as we are launched beyond our stratosphere into the outer worlds. The guitars erupt into an expansive wall of frequency rich textures, as we break away from the Earth’s gravitational hold, and float through the ambient layers of atmosphere. Mike Ystad continues to treat the sound with electronics, as Mike Rush delivers the bass riffs, with a guest appearance by Ayala Trumper on the cello, and of course, Chris Shafer on the mic. The album also employs a few field recordings and a selection of samples credited to freesound.org. “Just as Jupiter eclipses the other planets in our solar systems, Lights Out Asia have eclipsed expectations by delivering their most expansive album to date.” I couldn’t agree with that quote from the label’s page more… Be sure to pick up this and their previous releases, Tanks And Recognizers and Garmonia.
spoon of destruction
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.
“ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE”
One of the most memorable quotes from Arthur C Clarke‘s 2010 Odyssey 2, the sequel of course to 2001. It’s amazing to think that when that book was first published the year 2010 seemed so distant. Now we’re there. Back in 1982 the idea of a (second) manned mission to Jupiter and its moons (one of which is Europa) seemed plausible enough. Of all the science fiction writers, Clarke was one of the ones with a more scientific background. Yet in truth mankind finds itself half way through the actual 2010 having visited nothing more than our own moon.
I wonder whether such themes resonate within In The Days Of Jupiter? Progress/lack of progress. Lights Out Asia themselves face a tough task as we speak of making progress. Every album of theirs to date has contained something so utterly mind blowing that we writers proclaim it the best thing they’ve ever done. True to form, just minutes into the new album and ‘Except Europa’ sweeps me off my feet. ‘Except Europa’ blazes with the white heat of a rocket fuselage and promises to take us further than we’ve been before. A lot further.
In The Days Of Jupiter is the forth outing for Lights Out Asia and there’s an odd dichotomy at work, at least for me personally. I happen to love a lot of artists who blend electronics with guitars. This time around Lights Out Asia have toned down the guitar content. You notice, if you go looking for it, but honestly, the album sounds so natural, so crafted that I could hardly call it ‘processed’ or ‘mechanical’. ‘13 AM’ is another example of how Lights Out Asia manage to inject real passion, real drama into their work. It just could have done without the annoying phone dial sounds.
‘Great Men From Unhealthy Ground’ is the epic centrepiece here. Beautiful keys emerge from clouds over a full five and a half minutes before the vocal kicks in. You think the whole thing is going to boil over but Lights Out Asia cleverly keep us simmering. ‘Currents Meet The Tide’ is a moment of reflective calm (with a different vocal style to boot) while ‘Then I Hope You Like The Desert’ hits like an electro Mercury Rev.
What a beautiful album. Lights Out Asia have elevated themselves to a higher status. They are now akin to the Black Monolith consciousness of Arthur C Clarke’s universe. Step inside. My God, it’s full of stars.
26 comments so far (post your own)
Derail posted this comment on Thursday, 05.27.10 @ 19:17pm
I've been checking the site everyday for the past 2 weeks for this and it's finally up! Obsession? Probably, but just listen and you'll understand why. This sounds really intriguing, very different from their previous material.
Jimmy posted this comment on Thursday, 05.27.10 @ 21:46pm
I know what you are talking about, I cant wait for the Album.
I damn near sh*t myself when i seen this was up lol
Matt posted this comment on Friday, 05.28.10 @ 17:23pm
Thats some pretty amazing stuff-maybe one of the best albums of 2010?
Scott posted this comment on Saturday, 05.29.10 @ 17:32pm
Can not wait for this! All of their albums have been so great.
Karppaky posted this comment on Wednesday, 06.9.10 @ 09:08am
Really looking forward to this. The previews are very convincing this is certainly going to be among the best of 2010.
Chad posted this comment on Wednesday, 06.9.10 @ 22:11pm
release date please.......life force fading......must replenish with.......awesome music...........
ivonne posted this comment on Friday, 06.11.10 @ 14:01pm
Peter Denmark posted this comment on Friday, 06.18.10 @ 01:37am
"Eyes Like Brontide" is still one of the best albums I've heard in my life. No other album has ever matched its morose magnificence. It’s not often I’m confronted with an album that speaks for itself so lucidly, so confidently, and so loudly.
But im sure, with no doubt in my mind, that there isn’t gonna be a sound system on the planet loud enough to do "In The Days Of Jupiter" justice!
Bring it on!
Dr Zorders posted this comment on Monday, 06.21.10 @ 09:57am
Oh - so excited. This sounds unbelievably rich and as though they have gone into a bit darker territory. It promises to be sublime.
Paul posted this comment on Tuesday, 06.29.10 @ 01:51am
Fucking great news!
This is so amazing... can't wait to hear this one, always supported Lights Out Asia..
Some great stuff coming from n5MD!
ArnaudB posted this comment on Thursday, 07.8.10 @ 23:58pm
Jack posted this comment on Sunday, 07.25.10 @ 05:16am
Hell Yeah!!! My heart beats quickly.
Jack posted this comment on Sunday, 07.25.10 @ 05:16am
Hell Yeah!!! My heart beats quickly.
phylum_sinter posted this comment on Monday, 07.26.10 @ 23:45pm
This is exactly the kind of sound i hold n5md in such high regard for.
Can't wait to get a copy of my own.
Gordon Hackman posted this comment on Wednesday, 07.28.10 @ 05:47am
Just listened to all the songs (and watched the video) for the first time this past Saturday. It sounds amazing, better than I could have hoped for. My most anticipated release of the year by far. I'll be purchasing it first thing on the day it's available.
andrew posted this comment on Friday, 07.30.10 @ 11:30am
Amazing record. Buy it.
Elise Damon posted this comment on Saturday, 08.7.10 @ 21:59pm
rez posted this comment on Wednesday, 08.11.10 @ 00:24am
I slipped a tune from this record during my recent outdoor Dj set in the mojave desert(...and this was around 5 PM, man i swear it was one of the most amazing sunset we've ever seen:)....pure bliss.... and, oh yeah, it was a psytrance gathering no less.:-)
babtu posted this comment on Wednesday, 08.11.10 @ 07:00am
rez - looking for more info on this gathering. Do you share your dj set lists?
rez posted this comment on Wednesday, 08.18.10 @ 00:18am
namaste Babtu. twas an undisclosed gathering. mostly friends and their buds. around 50 of us. very good vibes tho man:)...and no ranger drama. setlist? no problem. if you're local 661 or 818 hit me up skyclan-at-goatrance-dot-net.....
Gordon Hackman posted this comment on Thursday, 09.9.10 @ 05:44am
I love this record. It's my favorite release of the year so far. I love the combination of great atmosphere, melody, and occassional heaviness. I also think the ambient vibe is perfect, neither too dark or too bright.
RazorJack posted this comment on Monday, 09.20.10 @ 08:11am
I didn't even know this album was out already! They should post an update on their myspace page (and maybe it's time to also update the official website www.lightsoutasia.com, latest news on there is the release of the second album which was released 3 years ago...)
In any case, I can't wait to receive the cd!
RazorJack posted this comment on Monday, 09.20.10 @ 08:12am
I didn't even know they had a new album out already! Maybe they should post an update on their Myspace page. In any case, I can't wait to receive the cd!
RazorJack posted this comment on Thursday, 10.7.10 @ 14:46pm
Received the cd a few days ago, and my expectations have been confirmed, and then exceeded. This is the best album 2010 had to offer so far. Cannot stop listening to "In The Days Of Jupiter".
Too bad it comes in a (in my opinion) cheaply looking and feeling digipak with no booklet, just like "Eyes Like Brontide". Would have loved a nice vinyl release.
Moto posted this comment on Thursday, 12.29.11 @ 07:21am
I love this album. Please keep the music coming guys!
Idile posted this comment on Thursday, 01.12.12 @ 16:40pm
It's as if it isn't even coming from this world. As I listen to this I feel like my mind is lost in the ether, maybe somewhere near Jupiter, where the concept of time is strange and disconcerting. Just like a dream. The atmosphere of this album has the quintessence of a dream. An epic one...