The new album from Los Angeles-based trio Eat Lights Become Lights is a bundle of contradictions, managing to be, by turns, accessible, difficult, measured and intense; sometimes all four at once. The group's aesthetic is that championed by the German pioneers of electronic music in the late 70s and 80s. We don't need to mention any names, but just in case you happen to be oblivious to their reference points - there's a good dash of Kraftwerk, Can and Neu! on the rather aptly-titled Heavy Electronics, which does exactly what an album going under that name would be expected to do. It's quite heavy going at times, but is a rather infectious listen throughout: 55 minutes of droning electro-rock that creates an atmosphere which is both oppressive and strangely compelling. It's like the entire album is founded on polar opposites, but opposites attract, and strangely enough, everything seems to come together in a way that's more than just a little impressive. The racing tempo, striking melody and motorik drumming of opener 'Bound For Magic Mountain' kicks things off nicely, and its energetic wall-of-sound approach sets the bar high.
They're well able to mix things up, too - if the whole record was cut from the same cloth, things would get tiresome quite quickly, but the title track dips into the more shoegazey elements of the Eat Lights Become Lights sound, sounding almost like an electronics-infused My Bloody Valentine at times, giving off that same sort of overwhelming vibe that Kevin Shields and co. do. The next two songs, 'Syd Mead Cityscape' and 'Terminus IV' are much calmer (in relative terms, at least), with the group sounding like they want to move into something akin to post-rock territory with the former, and indulging their progressive tendencies on the latter. These two songs last for almost 20 minutes between them, and it is as this point that Heavy Electronics really begins to stretch things, as the more ambient textures that crop up on the ethereal 'Sunrise at Malwar Junction' display it as a record that's quite willing to take risks.
As it marches to its conclusion, that adventurous spirit remains: the dazzling hook and clear-cut melodies that define 'La Kraut III' push Eat Lights Become Lights closer towards the spectrum of pop music than any other song on the album, and while it decides to go out with a bang with another slab of noisy, dancey, electro-krautrock, almost seeming to revert to type, 'Runner' is the sound of the band knowing what they do best and going out with all guns blazing. It takes a while for the 9-minute track to reach that point, but it achieves lift-off halfway through, getting an impressive amount out of a single chord, pattering drums and guitars that sound so shrill that they could probably be picked up by dogs if played through a stereo loud enough. With this album, what you see is only really half of what you get: sometimes, the band power ahead with motorik grooves and overpowering noise, and at others, they show that they're comfortable enough in their own skin to think outside the box, and it's those songs which indicate most clearly their burgeoning potential.