Dear Avalanche – Lights & Motion [Deep Elm]

Four years ago Christoffer Franzen released his debut album as Lights & Motion. Reanimation was the culmination of many months of long Scandinavian nights spent in the studio composing, performing, and engineering an uplifting and distinctly cinematic style of post rock to the delight of a close-knit group of fans gathered on social media who knew they were hearing something special from the first snippets and fragments that emerged during the embryonic stages. As much a fan of Hans Zimmer as Explosions in the Sky, the ever-prolific Franzen has gone on to a release a trio of albums of music oriented towards film & television under his own name along with three more Lights & Motion records, the newest of which is entitled Dear Avalanche.

“While it may sound paradoxical because an avalanche is so dangerous, it reminds me that there is always a precious silver lining in everything that happens. Events in your life will threaten to overpower you, but there is strength in facing them head on, accepting them for what they are and choosing always to look for the positive message in all the hardship and struggle. I hope people listening to this album will feel like they’ve been taken on a journey, as I worked hard at creating a world of sonic panoramas to get lost in.” – Christoffer Franzen

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Lights & Motion – Chronicle [Deep Elm]

“Cinematic” is an adjective we see being applied to more music than ever before, perhaps to the point of overuse.  But there simply is no other word that better describes the music of Lights & Motion, the amazing solo project of Christoffer Franzen who is the conceptualizer, composer, musician, and recording engineer behind it’s every sound. From the chrysalis of the lonely studio in Gothenburg, Sweden that he inhabits late into the night, another incandescent beauty has emerged in the form of his third full length album, Chronicle.

“The goal with my new album, Chronicle, was to take the listener on a emotional journey that ebbs and flows, and to try and create a very panoramic / widescreen experience, both sonically and compositionally.  Given my lifelong passion for everything cinema, it felt natural to take another step towards that widescreen, big canvas sound, while still maintaining the various elements and components of Lights & Motion’s trademark sound.” 

Franzen’s passion for the effusively cinematic, and his ability to deliver it, is not exactly a well kept secret. His music has already been picked up for a remarkable number of Hollywood film trailers, television spots and other promotional campaigns, most notably the commercial Google ran during the 2014 Oscars telecast which was seen & heard by millions. But, without a doubt Chronicle is the most accomplished and fully realized expression of Lights & Motion to date, one which embraces everything that came before it while scaling greater heights and demonstrating Franzen’s maturation in all aspects of music making.

The other components of Lights & Motion’s “trademark sound” which Franzen refers to above include post rock of the lyrical, melodic variety (think – yes I am going to say it – Explosions in the Sky) and dream pop (reference Coldplay or M83).  With Chronicle, Franzen fuses these components with the compositional dimension into one cohesive whole. The shimmering guitars and power chords that graced Reanimation are back as are the glowing tones and airy vocals of Save Your Heart, but they are folded into the narrative, filmic composition style that Franzen showcased in his Unreleased (Music for TV & Film) Vol. 1. 

The fact that it all flows so seamlessly and naturally is a testimony to Franzen’s growth as a composer and arranger. Chronicle feels very lean and assured from the gentlest solo piano passages to the most explosive crescendos, evidencing tremendous attention to detail in every instrument and treatment that was used.  The album is book-ended by a pair of tracks that embody all of these aesthetics beautifully, the opener ‘Fireflies’ and the closer ‘The Spectacular Quiet’, and is held up in the middle by the drive and swagger of ‘Reborn’. In between these, Franzen offers a number of great new songs such as ‘Antlers’ and ‘Particle Storm’ and quiet interludes in the form of ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Paper Wings’. Franzen is also becoming a more efficient musical storyteller as each track feels completely fleshed out, yet none of them require more than 5 minutes and change to complete a full trajectory.

Even if one prefers minimalism in film, almost all of us at least occasionally enjoy the wonder and exhilaration of bigger than life movies, but preferably in hands of those who really know how to architect and deliver the big moments – the Christopher Nolans and Peter Jacksons of the film-making world.  Making music with that sort of zeitgeist is what Lights & Motion sets out to do and that is exactly what Chronicle delivers. Grab a tub of popcorn, a tall soda, and a pair of 3D glasses and take the journey for yourself.

Order a copy of Chroniclehttp://deepelmdigital.com/album/chronicle

Listen to ‘Fireflies’

 ‘The Spectacular Quiet’ official video – Directed by Fraser West

Travelogue Week 2014-45

Noteworthy highlights from the past week of music discovery, releases, previews, and other news.  Daily updates are available on the Stationary Travels Facebook and Twitter feeds and audio/video links to all tracks featured during the month are available on the November 2014 Songdrop page.

Previews of Upcoming Releases

Loscil | Sea Island | Kranky (November)

The release of Sea Island by Loscil on Kranky label edges ever nearer and we were treated this week to another captivating preview track, ‘Sturgeon Bank’.  By the sound of this lovely piece, we can expect another impeccable ambient journey inspired by the Canadian landscape from the hands of Scott Morgan.

Order: http://kranky.net/

More info: http://www.loscil.ca/releases/

Northumbria | Bring Down the Sky  | Counsouling Sounds (November)

Ambient metal duo Northumbria, admittedly have roots in darker sounds not often played here, but the latest effort from the hands of Jim Field and Dorian Williamson called Bring Down the Sky is a more contemplative affair that balances the massive and expansive sound of their guitars with a melancholy-tinged sense of stillness and reflection, most particularly on the lovely ‘Ostara’. Ambient music that could fill a stadium with sound is not an easy thing to pull of, but Jim and Dorian do just that on the title track. Mesmerizing.

Order: http://consouling.be/album/northumbria-bring-down-the-sky/

Lubomyr Melnyk | Evertina  | Erased Tapes (December)

Pianist Lubomyr Melnyk follows up his latest album Corollaries with a new 24-minute mini album entitled Evertina due out next month via Erased Tapes which will feature three newly composed solo piano pieces which showcase the more gentle and melodic side of his work.  Like Corollaries, the cover for Evertina will feature the distinctive artwork of Gregory Euclide. Pre-orders are now available and the beautiful title track can be previewed on Soundcloud.

“The piano for me has so many different faces, so many personalities and wonders, it is like life itself, ever-changing yet always holding to a permanence of beauty…these three pieces fit so nicely together in spirit, they present a tableau, a tiny triptych that can reach the world without waiting for a major work, they stand beautifully on their own, and do not need an album to surround them with comfort and padding. No, they are what they are, and a short musical interlude as this record gives, is just perfect for their nature.” – Lubomyr Melnyk

Order: www.erasedtapes.com/store/index/ERATP064

Lights & Motion | Chronicle  | Deep Elm (Jan 2015)

Christoffer Franzen might just be one of the hardest working people in music.  He composes, performs, and mixes every note and layer for his Lights & Motion project which bookended 2013 with two full length studio albums, Reanimation and Save Your Heart.  Earlier this year he released a collection of film and TV music inspired compositions boasting over 20 tracks and now we learn that in January 2015 we will see his third album, Chronicle. It appears as if the new album will unite his uplifting melodic post rock with his cinematic compositional style, as evidenced by the huge sound of the soaring preview track ‘Reborn’.

Order: http://deepelmdigital.com/album/chronicle

The Union Trade | A Place of Long Years  | Tricycle Records (Feb 2015)

In February, San Francisco post rock/shoegaze outfit The Union Trade will release A Place of Long Years, their first full length album since 2008 and the first new music since their 2011 EP Why We Need the Night.

“After a brief hiatus…the band spent 3 years regrouping and refocusing their collective effort on creating instrumental guitar driven soundscapes, dynamic progressions, and sheer emotional strength. Picking up where they left off with the success of their popular instrumental song ‘Everyday Including Holidays,’ The Union Trade enlisted two local musicians to contribute on key tracks: Nate Blaz, fellow label-mate and cellist of (Geographer) and Ann Yu vocalist of (Silver Swans) to lend their haunting styles and unique points of view to The Union Trade sound.”

This week we got a preview by way of the song ‘Murmurations’ which sounds very promising indeed.

Order: http://www.tricyclerecords.com/product/the-union-trade-a-place-of-long-years/

Recent Releases

Kryshe | In Between | Hidden Shoal

In Between is the latest release from Germany based ambient composer and sound artist Kryshe via Hidden Shoal. The EP was actually available in September, but was a new discovery to me this week.  It is a lovely five track journey featuring crystalline piano blended with electroacoustic touches in a spacious ambient context.  I find his work very easy on the ears and suspect you will too.

Order: https://kryshe.bandcamp.com/album/in-between

Mono | The Last Dawn / Rays of Darkness  | Temporary Residence

One of the most beloved bands in post rock, Mono of Japan, follow up their 2012 album For My Parents with not one, but two new releases which are described as “recorded simultaneously yet conceptually and creatively disparate”.  I was personally drawn toward The Last Dawn which is sonically and thematically the lighter of the two.  It brims with aching melodies, swelling strings, and effusive emotion.  Rays of Darkness on the other hand is termed their blackest album and is the first to not feature any orchestral instruments whatsoever.  That said, there will no doubt be an eager audience for its massive sound and more experimental posture and I am quite enamored with ‘Surrender’ which features a trumpet played by Calexico’s Jacob Valenzuela.  It is hard to fault the band when they have managed to deliver both the style their existing fans crave as well as pushing into bold new territory.

Follow the links below to order either album from Temporary Residence as well as a limited edition signed and numbered print set featuring the artwork developed by Pat Perry for both.

Order The Last Dawnhttp://shop.temporaryresidence.com/trr242

Order Rays of Darknesshttp://shop.temporaryresidence.com/trr243

Order Pat Perry Fine Art Print Set: http://shop.temporaryresidence.com/trr242243

All Shall Be Well | Blauwgeel  

It was delightful to finally receive the new full length release from All Shall Be Well, based in Haarlem, Netherlands. Despite being separated by over three years, the style of BLAUWGEEL fits very neatly with its predecessor, ROODBLAUW right down the 2-color motif (red/blue, blue/yellow).  The band has a fine ear for elegant, yearning melodies which they render in a in an airy, almost waltzing lilt punctuated by powerful crescendos.

BLAUWGEEL features six beautiful tracks including a composition developed around a short story called ‘Buko’ by Amanda Andrei, the winner of the band’s Storytellers contest.  See the link below for a very nice read about that project and the story itself.  Also available is a 50 page hardcover book with art inspired by the songs which will be limited to only 300 copies.

Order: https://allshallbewell.bandcamp.com/album/blauwgeel

Storytellers:  http://www.allshallbewell.nl/category/storytellers/

Musée Mécanique | From the Shores of Sleep | Tender Loving Empire

Portland, Oregon based band Musée Mécanique follows up their debut album with the “ambitious” From Shores of Sleep, a work which the band desired to be “less like a traditional album and more like a musical novel or story” as the band describes most evocatively:

“The listener is taken on a voyage within a dream, through ten individual songs exploring the balance between realism and idealism, responsibility and adventure-seeking — the dream realm and waking life. From romantic shoreline, across haunted tides, through perilous squall and storm, past coral reefs and up grave river endings, the journey takes us through meticulously composed musical scenes that unfold seamlessly and ultimately leave us somewhere we never expected to be.”

In addition to the fully realized album, the band has also released an instrumental version which allows the story of the record to be told strictly through the music and puts the spotlight on the elaborate arrangements. They are each generously offered on a pay-what-you-want basis, so I recommend both as they are equally enjoyable in albeit slightly different ways.

Order: http://goo.gl/DwWnsu via https://www.tenderlovingempire.com/music

The Echelon Effect | Sierra  

David Walters followed up the second installment of his Atlantic / Pacific dual album earlier this year with a lovely new EP called Sierra.  In keeping with the beautiful cover art by Stephen Perez (who also records music himself as evolv), the sounds here are a little more soothing and intimate thus conveying more of a sense of stillness than of going on a journey. These are some of the finest sounds Walters has produced. Highly recommended.

Order: https://theecheloneffect.bandcamp.com/album/sierra

Album Review: ‘Save Your Heart’ by Lights & Motion (Deep Elm)

Triple Album

‘Save Your Heart’, the second full studio album from Lights & Motion, is being launched today by Deep Elm Records.   And launch is precisely the metaphor that Christoffer Franzen had in mind while laboring in the studio to create his latest sonic jewel.

Franzen says about the album, “On Save Your Heart, I wanted to push the sound of Lights & Motion further out, reaching upwards towards the stratosphere, higher up in the ether of space while daring to be bolder in both statement and style.”  He also had another sonic metaphor in mind for this record. “I wanted Save Your Heart to have more of a blueish or violet color in terms of sonic identity. In comparison, Reanimation had more of a yellowish tone”.

Indeed, Lights & Motion’s debut album, ‘Reanimation’ was soaked in the yellowish hues of idealism and happiness.  That record defied the somber conventions typical of post rock music and it’s glow is still radiating.  So, while ‘Save Your Heart’ does pick up where ‘Reanimation’ left off and does not drastically alter the Lights & Motion formula, it does, in fact, burn cooler.

The songs on ‘Save Your Heart’ are comparatively shorter, but thanks to a wider dynamic range and a discrete use of space in the recordings they sound more spacious and open.  When the crescendos hit, they sound bigger than ever, but in between there are more nuances and sonic shades.  We hear much more piano and voice on this record and every instrument is given its moments to shine individually, including a very cool new distorted bass sound that Franzen uses on a couple of tracks.

Among the highlights are the opening tracks, ‘Heartbeats’ and ‘Ultraviolet’ which blend seamless together and will immediately make fans of ‘Reanimation’ at home, coming off almost like extensions of that album with their trademark build up and soaring crescendos.   Also, a treat for longtime followers of Lights & Motion is the track which follows, a resplendent new recording of ‘Sparks’.

‘Snow’ brings out a delicious new distorted bass sound and then builds up layer by layer to recreate a sense of child-like wonder that the title suggests.  It ends up being a perfect segue into ‘Bright Eyes’ where we are again reminded that Franzen is not just a fine composer & musician, but also a very good vocalist.

On the latter half of the album ‘Crystalline’ is a real stand out, beginning with just a piano and strings and then exploding to a rousing conclusion.  ‘Orbit’ then provides an atmospheric prologue which leads into a final trio of songs that are huge in scope and sound, ‘We Are Ghosts’, ‘Atlas’, and the title track.

While ‘Reanimation’ was a leap of faith by Franzen, ‘Save Your Heart’ is an assured follow up from an artist whose vision is being refined and whose confidence and abilities are growing.  It should most definitely please fans of Lights & Motion and will undoubtedly win over many more new ones.

Ordering information at: http://deepelmdigital.com/album/save-your-heart

Album Feature: ‘More Film/TV Music’ by Lights & Motion

In January, Lights & Motion (the musical alias of Sweden’s Christoffer Franzen) put out ‘Reanimation’, one of the most exuberant and well received post rock records of the year. And later this month, Deep Elm Records will release the follow up album ‘Save Your Heart’ which is already garnering the same level of excitement and buzz as its predecessor.

Producing two high quality full-length albums is an impressive feat for any solo artist, but it turns out that is only half the story.  Pay a visit to Deep Elm’s Bandcamp site and you will see another Lights & Motion album has stealthily appeared under the radar, one that will be a special treat for fans and explores an entirely different dimension of Franzen’s talents. The album is called ‘More Film/TV Music’ and is currently only available in digital format. It is a collection of mini-scores, if you will, tracks that are inspired by film and television and which would perfectly suited for trailers or as parts of larger soundtracks.

Anyone who follows Lights & Motion on social media or Soundcloud will be familiar with many of these tracks as he has been sharing them piecemeal for several months.  Christoffer has often expressed his ardent admiration for the work of composers like Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman. And Lights & Motion’s music is being increasingly used in actual film and TV trailers (Homefront and Lone Survior, just to name the most recent). It is only after seeing this collection, however, that I was struck by how prolific and skilled he has become in this style of music.

The album features 18 tracks covering a wide range of styles and emotions and is sequenced very thoughtfully so that it plays all the way through seamlessly, like a complete movie soundtrack. In some cases the songs were inspired by personal experiences and emotions and in others by a particular aspect of film or soundtrack composition.

Tracks like ‘Homebound’ and ‘Bravery’ are deeply personal and touching and would do justice to the emotional climax of any film.  ‘Rise’ and ‘Phobia’, on the other hand, explore darker and more dynamic territory and have a pulse-pounding pace and style that would fit in a blockbuster action film. Another favorite is ‘Discovering Mathematics’ which conveys a sense of wonder and story exposition and is, in fact, the first of these types of pieces Christoffer published.

Added treats here are a pair of tracks that would fit on a Lights & Motion post rock album, ‘Home Part 2’ (a track that could have appeared on ‘Reanimation’) and the short, but rousing ‘Teardrop’.   And, in a nice touch, the album closes with two solo piano pieces, one of which is a reprise of ‘Homebound’.

Fans of original soundtrack music, especially Zimmer and Newman, this album should really resonate with you. Fans of Lights & Motion, this collection is nothing less than a revelation and a perfect way to spend some of your listening time before the release of ‘Save Your Heart’ next week.  And if anyone reading this is a film maker, well you may have just found the perfect person to score one of your future works.  As this collection shows, Christoffer certainly has the heart and the chops for it.

‘More Film/TV Music’ is available for digital purchase and download at: http://deepelmdigital.com/album/more-film-tv-music

‘Homebound’

‘Discovering Mathematics’

‘Phobia’