For the first full length review on the blog, I have chosen not only one of the best post rock releases of the last few years (let alone 2013), but one that I feel an extra connection to because I had the privilege to watch it grow from a fledgling project with just a few hundred followers to a body of work that has raised the bar for what people can expect out of the genre.
It began with one talented artist sharing on social media the fruits of his labors produced during long nights of insomnia-driven creativity – pieces of music that he composed, performed, and recorded himself. I paid him a single, well-deserved compliment on the first track that I got a chance to listen to and, in his friendly & gracious reply, he extended the invitation to “stick around”. I did exactly that and observed as his work came to fruition with nearly 25,000 Facebook fans, over 200,000 plays on Soundcloud, and a full length album release that is not only getting rave reviews from post rock aficionados, but winning over new fans to the genre and getting airplay all over the world. The artist is Christoffer Franzen, the project is Lights & Motion, and the record is “Reanimation” on the respected Deep Elm label.
If that seems like a cinematic introduction, it was meant to be, because this is a cinematic record. If you follow Christoffer on social media or read his interviews, you quickly learn of his love of original soundtrack music and its current masters, such as Hans Zimmer. So surely, it is no accident that the album develops in many ways like a film score, only to a movie that does not exist, but that lives instead in your imagination. I have found that as good as each of the songs on “Reanimation” are standing on their own merits, listening to the entire album with this mindset is the key to unlocking the most that it has to offer.
In particular, the first 5 tracks work together to form a very satisfying arc that is genuinely cinematic in scope. To begin with, sit down & relax, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and listen to the opening track, ‘Requiem’. All the subtle cues are there to evoke the same response you might experience if you were sinking down into your chair in a movie theatre as the lights dim, the curtains pull back, and the anticipation builds with the promise of cinematic magic taking over the room. The chiming tones of the outro transition to the ambient scratches at the beginning of the next track, ‘Home’ which unfolds like an opening scene. The chimes return, but in a faster tempo, and a crescendo begins to slowly build. You can imagine a camera panning across a scene – perhaps a city at night, or a glowing light on the horizon. Whatever image it brings to your mind, a sense of wonder and wide open space is invoked as it finally explodes with a dramatic flourish and driving pace that is full of life and light. Just as at the conclusion of a well-constructed opening movie scene, you are now fully absorbed in the world the storyteller has created.
The album then moves forward at a brisk, assured pace with the anthemic ‘Aerials’, which builds over a steady pulse, adding layers of percussion and guitars to reach a satisfying crescendo. All of this sets up the dramatic fourth track, ‘Drift’. A driving melody begins on just the piano before being joined by racing drums and a layer of muted, growling guitars. The tension builds and is then released after a pause in the breathless pace is followed by an eruption of power chords and soaring keyboards. It is bold and thrilling, a musical action scene.
The fifth track, ‘The March’ completes the arc as it also slows the pace. As in a film score, certain sounds & themes reappear In this case, it is the ambient scratches, chimes, and background voices we heard at the opening of the album. But, new components are also mixed in and there is a greater sense of drama. It is full of nuances and changes of pace. Acoustic guitars and strings add a little something new to the sound and it all builds to a satisfying conclusion and with an especially nice melodic surprise emerging around the sixth minute.
At this point, there is plenty of music left, but it feels as if at least one storytelling arc has been completed. Continuing the cinematic analogy, the major themes, characters, and plot lines have been introduced, but there is more of the story left to tell in which all of these will feature in different ways and contexts. This next stage begins with ‘Victory Rose’, a more reflective piece that moves at a slow & even pace and which features beautiful delay pedal guitar sounds. This is followed by ‘Epilogue’ and ‘Fractured’, which feature themes and crescendos introduced earlier in the album in slightly new ways and move the story along as it were, setting us up for the two longest & most atmospheric tracks on the album.
The first one, ‘Texas’, clocks in at over 9 minutes and feels like a complete story in itself with an introduction of gentle slide guitar and strumming acoustic rhythms creating an atmosphere that befits the title. It is a perfect song for a long drive on an isolated road. Then, ‘Faded Fluorescence’ is a wonderfully atmospheric piece that is around 8 minutes in length. Again, the music echoes the title as everything builds over top of an ambient buzz that summons the image of a glowing light. This one feels like a long reflection after moments of intense drama.
The 11th song, ‘Departure’ is a short power chord driven piece that wakes us from the reverie of the previous tracks and announces the concluding section of the album. This is followed by the title track, ‘Reanimation’ which starts of like a reprise of everything that came before, but then finishes with another lovely melodic surprise, finally playing out gently with just a piano carrying the melody.
By now, you’ve spent a little over an hour in the hands of a musical storyteller and run a gamut of emotions. But before it ends, as if to complete the soundtrack-like approach, Christoffer adds one more track. It is a lovely bit of dream pop called ‘Dream Away’, the kind of tune that, if this really were a film, would play as the lights came up and the credits begin to roll. Here we learn that just because he chose not to sing on the rest of the album, it does not mean that can’t do it very, very well. He has a wonderful voice which is pitch perfect for the style he delivers and it makes a satisfying conclusion to a stunning debut and a perfectly cinematic listening experience.
Is there any need to say that the album is highly recommended? Here are links where you can find it along with Lights & Motion on social media. Also enjoy a listen right here to the official video for ‘Home’ (see bottom of this post).