Born in 2003 from a desire to find unexplored regions between post-rock and laptop electronica, Lights Out Asia has refined a sound that is best described as the soundtrack to an imaginary club scene from Blade Runner. From a foundation of plush melancholy, the sample-rich melding of dissonant guitar swells, plaintive vocals and intricate electronics leads to songs thoroughly infected by influences ranging from dream pop artist Ulrich Schnauss to ambient pioneer Brian Eno, classic shoegazers My Bloody Valentine and a even dash of IDM stalwart Arovane.
Still, the band—Mike Ystad (electronics), Chris Shafer (guitar and vocals), and Mike Rush (guitar and bass)—is much more than the sum of its musical tastes. True to their intent, Lights Out Asia has planted its flag deep in the heart of no man’s land and draws listeners from camps as disparate as film soundtrack connoisseurs and the 4AD crowd to visceral club kids and atmosphere-huffing headphone fanatics hungry to map-out every little detail. To shackle them to a genre would first require the creation of one that actually fits.
For its first two releases on n5MD—2007’s Tanks and Recognizers and 2008’s Eyes Like Brontide—the trio experimented greatly with pace and volume in creating dynamic, gapless albums with an almost narrative arc that beg to be heard end-to-end. Whether soaring toward the peak of a fully formed “song” or drifting through the opium fog of a short sound collage, each moment in their works acts as a waypoint along a destined path. Although the term “concept album” is overused, few terms better describe the cinematic scope of a Lights Out Asia album.
For their latest release, In The Days of Jupiter, the band admits to backing off a bit from the meticulous editing that made their previous works so precise. They’ve also mellowed a little. The wall-of-sound guitar riffs are somewhat dampened. The layer-upon-layer of rhythms and samples are now more unified. The soft vocals—words amid a vortex of unpronounceable sounds—are even shyer. While still very much the blueprint of a cathartic cyberpunk noir, In The Days of Jupiter introduces something rather new—open space. When pressed for a description, Ystad, the group’s electronics specialist, even uses the word “organic” in his summation.
Indeed, for a band whose work has always felt highly personal, Lights Out Asia has somehow managed to sound even more trusting of its listeners than ever before.