Over its 18 year existence, Deep Elm Records has carved out quite the name for itself. Whether you’re familiar with the label for its release of landmark releases by bands such as The Appleseed Cast, Brandtson and Planes Mistaken For Stars, or for its semi-legendary Emo Diaries compilations of the 2000s, it has forever etched its name into the indie label history books. Lights & Motion, otherwise known as Christoffer Franzen, who hails from Gothenburg in Sweden, becomes the latest to be released on the Hawaii based label, with his debut record “Reanimation” (thankfully nothing whatsoever to do with the regrettable Linkin Park remix album).
This album is the latest in a long line of post-rock acts the label has offered, including the aforementioned Appleseed Cast, Moving Mountains and Hampshire “post-pop” act Our Lost Infantry. Franzen understandably takes cues from fellow Scandinavians Sigur Ros (most evidently on The March) and Mew (despite its cinematic and sweeping, majestic nature, it still retains some indie rock dynamic in places), alongside acts from further afield, such as Explosions In The Sky, Caspian and 65daysofstatic. This record was conceived during several late-night insomnia sessions, and reflects the lucid dream state the mind enters in those times. Tracks like “Victory Rose” (the English translation of Sigur Ros, fact fans) are vast in their scope, synth lines ebbing and flowing towards a soft, subtle zenith. It’s undeniably pretty, yet somehow, leaves one cold and wanting.
Franzen may be somewhat of a precocious talent, having written, produced, engineered and mixed the album by himself, but there’s only so much emotion you can force from a computer screen. A lot like fellow synth-friendly post-rockers God Is An Astronaut, it’s a perfectly nice listen, but you just don’t get the same blood rush when reaching the crescendo of acts like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Mono. Some ideas here are a total mishit, such as “Fractured”, which sounds like the instrumental version of Coldplay’s next single – with some insipid warbled vocals, this could be the next “Fix You”, but here feels half-baked and cheap. Masters of the genre create art that keeps your heart in your mouth other the course of even 20+ minute long songs, but the longest track on this record “Texas” (the state Explosions In The Sky hail from, fact fans) fails to produce any real emotional hook to keep the listener invested through its 9-minute course.
There’s nothing eminently wrong with this record, but when the strongest adjective you can come up with is “nice”, it’s struggling a little. It gives an undeniable nod to their heroes, just the wrong parts of them – Sigur Ros when they decided to make soundtracks for nature documentaries, or Explosions In The Sky providing the undertone for key “first world problem” moments in high school dramas. It’s certainly a bold and respectable move from Franzen to go it alone on this one, it just hasn’t pulled off. Like the glacial landscapes of his native Sweden, there’s a lot of beauty to behold, yet when it’s over, you’re glad for an overpriced beer and a roaring fire, just so you’re not in the cold anymore.