Review Summary: Lights Out Asia's masterpiece.
Lights Out Asia was first described to me as a blend of ambient electronica and post rock. This description is apt, but leaves something to be desired when attached to a band that so flawlessly executes what it sets out to do. On Tanks And Recognizers, Lights Out Asia have created their most enjoyable album. Avoiding some of the awkward moments found on their debut Garmonia
, Lights Out Asia combine the electronic shoegaze textures of Ulrich Schnauss
with a sense of layering and dynamics taken directly from the proverbial post rock playbook. What you get out of this combination is a smooth mixture of serene electronic beats, spacey guitars, and the occasional vocal spot. While this mixture of genres is typically hit or miss, Lights Out Asia has managed to put forth a unique album that hits again and again.
Tanks And Recognizers opens with the absolutely stunning "Roy". This track is a fantastic representation of Lights Out Asia's sound, full to the brim with echoing guitars, atmospheric synthesizer work, and yearning vocals. The second half of "Roy" is the real clincher however, as vocalist Chris Schafer appears to add an extra bit of emotion to the nostalgic catharsis already present. "Roy" sets the stage quite well for the remainder of Tanks And Recognizers
, inducing an optimistic yet melancholy atmosphere that hovers over all of the remaining songs. For all of Lights Out Asia’s use of electronics, their tracks feel intensely organic and emotionally charged. No track shows this better than the sublime "March Against The Savages". Beginning with a trill of reverberating synthesizer notes, "March Against The Savages" builds layer upon layer of soothing noise, peaceful guitar melodies, and warm synthesizer lines. After collecting a fair amount of momentum, the heavily delayed guitars break loose from their confines, ringing out alongside wails from Chris Schafer. This is post rock at its most poignant. Lights Out Asia maintain this high level of quality for the four remaining songs, slowly winding down until we are eventually brought to the nearly 11 minute finale "Spiti Elefas".
The atmosphere and overall attitude of this album can only be described as soothing. The drifting sameness found here does not detract from the listening experience, but rather accentuates the light airiness of the music presented so elegantly by Lights Out Asia. It’s quite easy to put this album on and just drift off into thought, with no real consideration for what song is playing. This is not to say that these tracks are worthless when focused on. The production on this album certainly makes for rewarding headphone listening, as each song is full of rich sound effects and little sonic treats buried deep in the mix.
One complaint that could be leveled at this album is its homogeneous nature. I will not refute this claim, as all of the tracks (excluding the beatless Drift/Fade) are built from the same elements. The truth is, Lights Out Asia could have made an attempt to change up their song structures on this album. However, it is in this sameness that Lights Out Asia thrives. Instead of trying to constantly keep you on your toes, Lights Out Asia asks you to mellow yourself out and let your mind slow down for a little while. Instead of making uniformity a liability, Lights Out Asia revel in using the same structure in almost every song. While you know what is coming, that doesn’t make it any worse when it arrives. By making this overarching similarity an asset, Lights Out Asia has crafted a superb album that only gets better with repeated listens.