ALBUM REVIEW: CHRISTOFFER FRANZEN – WIDE AWAKE

Christoffer Franzen Lights Motion Wide Awake
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I’ve always thought the act of sleeping to be somewhat of a strange occurrence.  While essential to one’s health and wellbeing it still strikes an awkward chord in me, especially in the company of new acquaintances.  Having toured and spent numerous nights positioning myself on a stranger’s floor, I’ve never quite become comfortable with the bizarre concept of turning one’s self off for a few hours.  I think I’ve sort of just accepted the process as strange and have never really taken the time to think about why.  We all do it.  Most of us wish we could do more of it.

And then there are people who don’t sleep.  I’ve really only been acquainted with one insomniac in my life and I can’t even begin to comprehend the amount of frustration they must experience.  As weird as I find sleeping to be, I’m very grateful that it comes easy for me.  However, with two young kids, I’ve had more than my fair share of sleepless nights.  I love my girls to death but these nights have been an incredible challenge for my sanity and never once have I felt the creative itch at the tired hours of 3 AM.  However, Christoffer Franzen (most notably of Lights & Motion) has been able to channel his sleepless nights in the most remarkable way.

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Franzen is no newcomer to the art of writing incredibly moving music.  His initial endeavor, Lights & Motion, quickly spread across the globe and captured the attention of Deep Elm Records.  Situated within the genre of cinematic post-rock, Franzen’s music is perfectly suited for TV and film.  He has great writing discipline that allows the music to breathe and grow but not become too drawn out and tired.  Self-taught on every instrument, Franzen orchestrates his music by himself locked away in a small Swedish studio during the early hours of a sleepless night.

Having garnered remarkable success in getting his music placed on major Hollywood film trailers (Concussion, Transcendence, Lone Survivor, to name a few), high profile ad campaigns and Super Bowl commercials, Franzen is a proven musician and, more importantly, a brilliant composer.  With three Lights & Motion albums under his belt, he is set to release his third composer release titled Wide Awake on March 18th, 2016.  Following in the footsteps of Music For Film & Television, Volumes 1 and 2Wide Awake is a twelve song exploration in brevity and mastery.  Unlike Franzen’s work with Lights & Motion, his composer releases are made up of short, straight to the point, orchestrations specifically built for licensing.  And while these pieces may leave the listener yearning for a few more minutes of musical bliss, they still work wonderfully as a whole.

Franzen took a different approach to writing Wide Awake as compared to Music For Film & Television, Volumes 1 and 2.  As the album title hints, he wrote these songs during the day.  This change in writing approach created a beautiful musical result that still remained true to his writing ability but revealed a more inspiring, uplifting side to his talent.  I have a deep appreciation for writer’s who allow their surroundings to drive their work and find Christoffer Franzen’s willingness to use his insomnia to musically articulate himself both rewarding and inspiring.

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While Wide Awake was written during the day, it still maintains a dreamy vibe that positions itself nicely next to Franzen’s previous work.  Understanding his background as a composer and his battle with insomnia, immediately moves me to look at each piece on Wide Awake as a short dream.  I’m not an avid dreamer, but when I do dream I find them to be short and fluid, moving in and out of semi-connected storylines.  The brief nature of all of Franzen’s compositions work wonderfully as a soundtrack to a dreamscape that moves from one idea to the next, sometimes working together and other times playing with sporadicity.  I’d like to think that while each of us are sleeping, Christoffer Franzen is hard at work writing the perfect soundtrack to our dreams.

C.J. Blessum

 

This review is about Franzen’s cinematic work. Click here for a review of Franzen’s other project, Lights & Motion.

Album Review: Lights & Motion – Chronicle

Lights and Motion Chronicle deep elm cinematic post rock cover
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Deep Elm have once again proved themselves as a vital record label at the forefront of the post-rock movement by releasing Lights & Motions’ third album, Chronicle.

Lights & Motions’ Reanimation was my favourite post-rock album of 2013. (Nuet, from Deep Elm label-mates Dorena came a close second.) Chronicle follows on and helps to build upon the legacy of a much hyped, yet relatively new band.

Unfortunately many post-rock bands fall into the trap of sounding the same. You know the same old cookie cutter recipe: start quietly and slowly build up the music with swelling guitars and inspirational keys. Many bands succeed at doing this and it’s all fine and listenable, but with very little to set them apart from the multitude of other bands who sound just the same, especially seeing as there are no vocals in most regards.

Some people would suggest that Lights & Motion are one of these bands. The music may as well be purely soundtrack. But I think that the variety and quality of instrumentation is enough to make Lights & Motion stand out. It’s enough to keep me coming back to listen to the music again, at least.

Christoffer Franzén is the man behind Lights & Motion. Everything on the record is him. He’s a modern-day Mike Oldfield, capable on a wide array of different instruments. And he’s self-taught as well. That takes some dedication. He’s more than adept on the drums, guitars, keys, violins, and all the other instruments that feature on the album.

Lights & Motion was essentially started with the attempt to capture the sound of dreams and memories. Franzén was an insomniac, so used his sleepless nights to hone his musical skills into something productive. And it worked. Franzén has captured moods and feelings and recorded them with instruments. “Reborn” sounds sinister. “Northern Lights” is a tenderly picked interlude. “Paper Wings” is a delicate piano ballad. They all sound inspiring, wondrous, the stuff of dreams.

Chronicle sounds epic, expansive, cinematic even. Watch the clip for “The Spectacular Quiet” and notice how it could have quite comfortably fit in to a film like James Cameron’s Interstellar.

Listening to Chronicle is a transcendent experience. The listener gets transported somewhere new. Somewhere grand, on a major adventure. These songs contain a story, and the lack of vocals means that the stories are completely up to personal interpretation. My friend Ivo from Stereofox summed it up well, calling Lights & Motion “a magical and epic journey that transcends all describable feelings and sensation.”

I would be surprised if Franzén doesn’t start scoring big-budget movies anytime soon. Stylistically, he’s more like Rhian Sheehan than Hans Zimmer, but he clearly has enough talent required to write the music for any major Hollywood blockbuster.

Chronicle is available for download on bandcamp. And while you’re there, make sure to browse the rest of the Deep Elm discography

 

Joseph James