Instrumental music has extraordinary potential: You do not need words to have a powerful, meaningful impact on people. This was understood for many generations, but popular focus has significantly shifted in the past half-century towards vocally-centered music and away from instrumental music. This is what makes the post-rock movement, a largely instrumental vein of ‘experimental rock’ that emerged in the 1990s and persists today, so crucial: This music gives a voice (no pun intended) to the instrumental, offering artists a means to express themselves, and a community in which they can celebrate the power of timbres and textures.
Duo In Light Of take special care in accentuating nuances and highlighting the relationships between sounds and tones on their debut EP, Little Treasures, which Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering today. Strikingly, the two members of In Light Of, Jason Greenberg and Sandy Johnston, have never written a song together in the same room or city. All five songs on their EP came together through ideas shared electronically, making Little Treasures a special tribute to the interplay between music and modern technology.
“What made this record so fun to make was that we never put pressure on each other and no recording was ever too lo-fi,” says the band. “It was all about the vibe. The vibe between us always had to be relaxed and the vibe of each recording took precedent over the quality of the recording. Sometimes it’s not possible to recapture the magic of an idea that was recorded in the first moments of inspiration. Whenever we heard that magic we kept the original recording in the final mix, even if it was recorded on a phone with someone making pancakes in the background.”
In Light Of mention the term vibe; this word speaks especially well to their music. Each of their songs is built around a centralized theme or motif, a subtle concept built around one or two instruments. Melodies and harmonies expand as the initial instruments become beds from which layers of guitar, piano and percussion come to life and envelop our ears. Full soundscapes are realized, swimming with nostalgia and hope, pain and love, loss and perseverance. Following these climactic engagements, In Light Of’s songs find resolution: Much like the hero’s journey, these wordless narratives return to the ordinary world, taking with them the enlightenment they gained along the way as they are dismantled back into their core instrumental themes.
Little Treasures opens with “Bless Your Heart,” a brooding and humble piece that perfectly exemplifies the aforementioned musical arc. Synth ostinato accompany a low-bowed contrabass progression; an effected, tremolo guitar and drum kit slowly increase tension and emotion, whilst ambient textures inch their way from background to foreground. The song reaches its climax in an explosion of distorted energy, which subsides in a massive drop to the original, introductory lines. The listener is left feeling dizzy, having gone on a roller-coaster of feelings.
And so the EP continues, sweeping us up in its massive sonic wave and taking us on five unique adventures, that sum up to one massive listening experience. “Cardinal Song” features a moody and reflective acoustic guitar, layers of piano and effected electrics. Close your eyes, and you might imagine yourself at the edge of a sandy beach, riding out a dark storm. Guitar harmonics feature heavily in “Little Treasures,” blending sweetly with a warm tremolo guitar. The title track inspires an peaceful, tranquil atmosphere; its folky guitar lines are especially resonant, adding an “organic element to the electronic mix,” as the band puts it.
In Light Of’s work is actually quite similar to the moody, emotional work on Coldplay’s 2000 debut Parachutes. The UK band’s exploration of guitar and piano inspired a similarly brooding, introspective listening experience. The emotive piano on “Ascending” accesses similar recesses of our persons, pushing us deep into ourselves where we may access our core emotions. Closer “Harmonico” feels like an album ender – it sums up the record in a reflective state of mind, employing a mix of guitar arpeggios, distorted bass, synth pads and strings to instill hope into our still-brooding selves.
In Light Of explore the balance between mellow minimalism and epic, expansive sound-sculpture in their debut. Raw emotions are built out of ambient textures and layers of sound, with beautifully poignant, impassioned melodies that swoop listeners into the clouds, before landing them gently on their feet. Experience Little Treasures via our stream, and peek inside In Light Of’s debut with Atwood Magazine below as the duo provide their personal take on their songs.
Listen: Little Treasures [EP] – In Light Of
:: Little Treasures ::
Bless Your Heart
The original ideas for “Bless Your Heart” were recorded the same day a close relative of a good friend passed away. She was famous for her unrelenting sweetness and her tendency to shout “Bless your heart!” upon recognition of a loved one in her presence. The title only seemed fitting.
Sandy wrote the intro guitar part for “Cardinal Song” one early morning, shortly after being woken up with the news that his wife was pregnant with their first child. The weight of the news can be felt in the song as well as the feelings of excitement and optimism and love. The song was named after a male and female pair of cardinal birds that spent a lot of time in Sandy’s backyard that spring.
The inspiration for “Little Treasures” came from a lo-fi recording made years ago on a basic computer mic purchased at Radio Shack. Sandy uncovered the recording one day while going through old ideas to send to Jason. The circumstances of the recording were forgotten but the inspiration wasn’t lost. We found the layers of melodies we created produced other mysterious melodies. Gifts from the universe, or little treasures.
“Ascending” was born one late night, sitting by the piano in almost complete darkness, after the baby had gone to bed. To me (Sandy) it represents that feeling of peace that returns every so often when life quiets down.
“Harmonico” began very much in the same way as Little Treasures. An old idea recorded on a low end mic was uncovered by Sandy and sent to Jason. Sandy has always loved experimenting with guitar harmonics given their unique and beautiful, almost angelic, sounding tones. The track is meant to be hopeful and exploratory.
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cover photo: In Light Of © 2016