Lights and Motion – Save Your Heart This is a beautifully optimistic album, the first track Heartbeats starts gradually with the light of new hope. It shines warmly on the soul and melts the last shadows of depression. The tempo picks up and takes us running through sunlit fields, to a place where a new beginning can be found. It sets the tone for the transcending experience of the whole album. For me it stands out in the genres of Post-rock and Cinematic music, it has something more to offer. Lights and Motion are comparable with Two Steps from Hell, AudioMachine and Keith Kenniff to give the listener an idea of what to expect. Ultraviolet and Sparks carry us forward in a rush of elation and almost unbearable joy. Shimmer gives us a welcome moment to pause and catch our breath. The tone deepens and seems to contemplate the clouds above in darkening winter skies, and the cycle of life which dictates that everything must come to a natural end. We are taken on an emotional journey, a journey that we will never forget and which can only leave us changed. Snow is one of the most memorable songs for me, it sounds like the sparkle of snow on the ground and captures the childlike excitement of the first snowfall in winter. It invites us to dance with the children in the snow and follow their white footprints as they lead the way.
Lights and Motion have released a steady stream of full-length albums since their formation in 2012 (basically an outlet for Franzen’s musical perambulations as he battled with insomnia) and their tracks have been featured in scores of TV spots and trailers (ranging from Furious 7 to The Vampire Diaries), as well as ads and promos (Budweiser, Rip Curl, Google, The Guardian, the list goes on).
The outfit has built up a reputation as purveyors of tightly focused cinematic soundscapes that draw on Franzen’s self-taught classical guitar background; fleshing out his richly harmonic guitar and piano compositions with soaring strings, lush synths, pounding drums, and sparky, chugging guitars.
Franzen is a composer who prides himself on writing across myriad styles and genres, and despite the aesthetic unity of his latest work, this eclecticism is out in full force on Dear Avalanche, Lights and Motion’s third album released under the auspices of America’s Deep Elm Records.
On first listen the tracks sounds almost familiar. Not withstanding the fact that you have quite possibly heard a Franzen composition on TV, web or big screen, the band occupy a studied position where soundtrack music meets ambient chill out; where upbeat dream pop meets soul-searching post-rock.
The album kicks in with the euphoric, wordless vocal refrain of opener This Explosion Within. But this firefly has only a brief yet bright life cycle; at just a shave over two minutes the fire works fade away to expose the delicate, crystalline melodicism of Feathers, with its floating guitar lines and pounding yet urgent drums.
Despite the sonic coherence of Dear Avalanche, this is a comprehensive journey through an enchanting thicket of post-rock and ambient modes; from the languid, wintry time-lapse of Silver Lining, to the delicate meandering piano motif of Anomaly, which builds to as close as it’s possible to come to a slow crescendo.
This is also an album of rich contrasts. The digital haze of Pandora’s opening moments quickly blossoms into a seamless blend of laid-back euphoric beats; with optimistic power pop guitars painted in rugged brush strokes across an otherwise highly controlled canvas; whilst the rapid piano riffs of Perfect Symmetry seduce the listener into one of the more purely ambient moments of an album that alternates between road music, feel-good movie soundtrack, and relaxation tape.
Everest twinkles like ice crystals effortlessly circumnavigation the eponymous mountain peaks in a hazy cloud of sound, and Lucid Dreaming is as sedate and dreamy as one would expect from such a title; a song with almost no discernable beginning or end, a gently mesmerising infinity pool of calming strings and limpid piano.
DNA kicks in with all the urgency of a pounding alarm clock. But, after jet washing the sleep out of your eyes to revive you from the previous track’s long night of dreaming, it too melts dreamily away into Anamorphic, where there’s a touch of Sigur Ros, or even (whisper it) Mogwai to the clean electric guitar and infinite regress of strings. After being serenaded with a brushed drum march entering around the two-minute mark, we are gently ushered out by a creeping piano motif, and our journey now brings us to Exhale; where undulating synth strings interweave, all set against a crisp, hushed backdrop of crackling static.
The heavenly strings of As They Sleep unfold like ambient angels watching over us, leaving the soothing folksy guitar of penultimate track All The Way to guide us gently towards the album’s closer with its languid bass drum and cymbals. All that’s left now is the strident optimism of We Only Have Forever, marching us majestically to the album’s soaring close.
Whilst there is a familiarity to Dear Avalanche that prevents it from entering wholly new sonic territory, it’s clear that editors and promo producers the world over will be eager to ransack this generous vault of highly masterful soundscapes to complements their edits. One feels like we are waiting for the time when Franzen will do an Eno and really turn the soundtrack world on its head. In the meantime, here’s hoping that a prolific and consummate screen composer will keep up his admirable work ethic long into the infinite and dreamy future.