Lights Out Asia: Tanks and Recognizers

n5MD seems effortlessly able to give listeners one high-quality release after another and the trend continues with Lights Out Asia's Tanks and Recognizers, the Wisconsin trio's sophomore full-length and n5MD debut. Formed in 2003 by Aurore Rien members Chris Schafer and Mike Ystad and later joined by guitarist Mike Rush, the group operates in a sonic zone peopled by Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, and deploys an epic, cathedralesque production style favoured by the likes of Robin Guthrie. Put simply, Lights Out Asia's style might be described as an ethereal fusion of dreampop, shoegaze, and post-rock.

It takes no more than half a minute for the gorgeous opener “Roy” to rise heavenward when electric guitar peals swoop over a billowing mass of strings, while the driving beats and guitar blaze of “ Four Square ” reveal the trio's post-rock and shoegaze leanings. Other peaks? Try “Art Divided by Science,” seven gorgeous minutes of chiming guitars and cinematic strings, or perhaps the eleven-minute closer “Spiti Elefas,” whose shimmering atmospheres, programmed beats, and guitar lattices encapsulate all of the group's tendencies and strengths in one fell swoop. Elsewhere, the trio's penchant for blending electronic elements and acoustic instruments gets a nice showcase in “Ring of Stars” where strings sing sweetly amidst tinkling melodies, and Canadian listeners will be chuffed to hear Ontario 's capital get a shout-out (“Oh! Toronto ”). Five minutes into “March Against the Savages,” Lights Out Asia even briefly turns into U2 when vocals uncannily similar to Bono's soar over an anthemic, axe-driven roar. A solid outing, then, with one exception: the group might want to consider retiring vocals in the future, as they're of second-rate caliber (on “Oh! Toronto ” in particular) but, more importantly, are hardly required when the music is already so strong on its own.

September 2007