Review Summary: From here, we can build eternity
Listening to a Lights Out Asia album is somewhat akin to experiencing a day observing the comings and goings of an airport. Not in a conveniently comedic I’m- a-victim-of-political-revolution Tom Hanks kind of way, but there’s an air of mystery and foreign insecurity that inhabits the world that this Milwaukee-based trio seem to inhabit. That, to just sit back and watch as strangers arrive and take their first steps in a strange land or to see others disappear into the great beyond in search of their own lives should be an image that springs to mind is of no great surprise, there’s always been an earnest kind of trepidation that their music so easily seems to inspire. The idea of travel and, to a greater extent, the vast unknown, has always been at the forefront of the group’s sound, more so even than the ideas of lost identity and existentialism, the cold war paranoia shtick that seems to follow the band wherever they go. Yes it’s a theme that’s been repeatedly used as a sort of placement, a hook for the narrative flux to hang on; but more than the conflict itself, Lights Out Asia have always been about the aftermath. The beginning of new eras, the changes in the world, the toll dealt to the human spirit; it’s the lingering doubts, the jet-lagged outer-body experiences…. the what if’s instead of the what happened.
Much like the city of Atlantis, Hy-Brasil
takes its name from myth, a phantom island cloaked in mist except for one day every seven years….. though as all good legends go the island could still not be reached, thus of course preserving the integrity and mystery of said legend. As a reference point, it represents not just that idea of the great unknown and what lies beyond documented discovery, but also the unattainable, the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The artwork might be the beach just down the road from your house framed by the death of the day, but take away the seagull and it could be daybreak on Mars; it could be the world we know or it might just be something entirely new. If In The Days Of Jupiter
was the group looking far
beyond our reach, then Hy-Brasil
is content with exploring what lies just
beyond our reach.
As far as genre clichés go, LOA keep the post rock stereotypes to a minimum for their fifth outing. Motifs span several songs, with Hy-Brasil
serving more as a housing for three suites rather than twelve individual movements. Sections still, almost compulsively, revolve around white-knuckled crescendos and Wagnerian-level climaxes but they’re never at the heart of the moment, never the defining instant by which the track lives by. They exist instead as an act of distinction for the lonely melody, the nervous twitch of guitar strings. Which, by contrast, are they seen as being so volatile and explosive, a paroxysm of emotion, of discovery…. of reward. From the trembling brilliance of ‘The Eye Of All Storms’ to the shuddering conclusion of ‘Angels Without Hands’, the paradoxical nature of the group’s music works because of its dynamic; the light versus dark elements that aren’t treated as wholly separate but instead are joined in unison, one balancing out the other.
doesn’t predicate itself solely on the building of tension though; while the album certainly holds its fair share of incendiary fireworks, favor lies more with the cradling and spacious ambient arrangements that the group only used to hint at. If Hy-Brasil
represents discovery, its contents document the journey, peppered with garbled transmissions from distant shores and the faint sounds of a flock of seagulls cutting holes in the clouds. The forward momentum of ‘Running Naked Through Underground Cities’ and the synth-rock freak-out of ‘Ghost Identifier’ might seem like textural oddities in the wake of arguably the group’s most discordant outing yet, but Hy-Brasil
is a well travelled veteran, soaked in foreign customs and conflicting dichotomy. These moments certainly don’t point towards some grand game-changing statement, they simply allow the fragrant atmosphere to exude itself even more. It’s simply the group pushing themselves further than they have in the past.
When they get heavy here (surely someone, somewhere is counting the degrees of separation between ‘Angels Without Hands’ volatile extremities and dubstep) they’re not so much stepping outside their boundaries as they are redefining just how loud and abrasive they can be. Perhaps they are just rattling the bones of the stereotypical corpse of their genre, but look at it instead as a reimagining of what Lights Out Asia are capable of, within and outside of the fundamentals of their often-criticized genre; for what they’ve built here (and in the past) is a dynamic that will last them, and us, a lifetime.