Review Summary: LITE stumble on the way to a higher echelon.2 of 3 thought this review was well written
LITE are not a hard band to like. Their intimate, compact live shows are a joy to behold, their usage of the incendiary musicianship they possess is always humble and modest, and most importantly, the generosity and scale of their releases is unparalleled. With a new album or EP (or even DVD) out at least every calendar year since their inception, the still-young band have found their feet in dramatic fashion, but that appears to be the result of trial and error on their behalf, for each release they send out into the ether has only partial similarity to the preceding record. Or perhaps preceding 'set' of records, for the chronology of LITE can be roughly categorised into three phases; the first is Filmlets
, rip-roaring math rock with no energy wasted to take even the slightest breath. The second is the EP phase, with The Sun Sank
and Illuminate EP
, both of which flirted with electro-elements, notably smoothing out their sound and shrouding their music in atmospheric mysticism.
So when the third phase began, instead of reeling from copious amounts of computerised pretentiousness, we were instead treated to the powerhouse record For All the Innocence
, where the time signatures stuck to 4/4, the pent-up aggression had dissipated and LITE allowed themselves to really limber up and let go, and it showed; the euphoric, beautiful For All the Innocence
has fun bursting out of its seams, it's deliciously lush and carefully orchestrated. It was an absolute triumph of substance over style, and LITE had found a totally unique, original sound to build upon. However, last year's Past, Present, Future EP
revealed itself to be a giant step in the wrong direction with aimless electronic pieces and usage of a vocalist for sections; it felt rushed and poorly thought-through. So naturally it is a great relief that Installation
is, for the most part, a return to the imaginative instrumental cacophony that greeted us on For All the Innocence
, and a continuation of this successful 'phase', yet this admittedly fun, quirky record has refined the textures into a mash of indecipherable blurred lines. Sure, it's still entertaining and has some of the band's hallmarks (Echolocation
is pure, unadulterated LITE), but tracks like the coma-inducing Starry Night
and the baffling Hunger
are such a mess of dull, indecipherable noise that you wonder whether they had been envisioned for this album at all; many of the pieces here bear so much resemblance to those from For All the Innocence
that this almost feels like an album of B-sides and leftovers. It's like a low quality version.
While their past releases have featured an unpredictable element, even the best, catchiest ideas on Installation
quickly outstay their welcome, with Fog Up
acting as the main culprit. A funk-tinged bassline and staccato keyboard stabs kick off this groovy little track, but a sudden realisation occurs whereby one surmises that the track has literally nowhere to go from here. It peaks way too soon. Perhaps LITE of old would have taken it somewhere; chopped and changed, thrown in a crescendo or two. However, this new LITE appears to be a complete package, with higher highs and lower lows, leaving us to simply hope that the band doesn't let their fiery, jubilant originality drift away, a very real possibility considering the album's inclusion of Between Us
. Perhaps the two most frustrating tracks their history, they highlight a worry that a slide toward self-indulgence may be occurring, the former being yet another pointless foray into electronica, the latter being a makeshift outro of jangly, echoing guitars and shimmery synths. It's not frustrating in its own right, but Installation
is only ten tracks long and we've already had an intro, so this feels like either valuable time wasted or cynical filler.
Over before it really starts, Installation
is the kind of album you have to repeat immediately, despite not even having much in the way of replay appeal. It leaves you feeling like the curtain's come crashing down for the big reveal and you were sat in the audience with your eyes closed. You've missed something, but you don't know quite what. Alter Ego
was fun, that weird shuffling beat and pulsing bass, and album highlight Subaru
was hilariously pants-to-the-wind with synths like an insane Japanese gameshow, but where was the big payoff? Though not totally a dud, this chapter in LITE's history won't go down as an uncorrupted triumph. For Installation
, the crazy, youthful exuberance LITE have become known for is slowly slipping away, and, for now at least, the band have turned down the heat in the furnace. Here's hoping the flame doesn't die, as the world would be a sadder place without the truest, most earnest form of LITE, and this album has proven to be an awkward stepping-stone on the band's endlessly zig-zagging road to perfection.