Album Review: Teller – Strive Recess Echo

Teller strive recess echo cover

I don’t especially like it when bands sneak by me like some silent stranger in the night.  There’s just so much instrumental rock out there these days that it’s easy to miss a few here and there.  I’d like to believe that I have my finger firmly placed upon the crescendoing pulse of post-rock.  How Teller got by me beggars belief.  To my credit they’ve only released one EP back in 2013, but this band hosts a member of Swedish post-rock band Ef (Emanuel Olsson) and was produced by Daniel Juline (also of EF).  “Hello Scotland” is one of my favorite tunes of all time.  This isn’t about Ef, though.  This is about Teller’s first full-length Strive Recess Echo.  An album seven years in the making.

Someone should really do a study on the effects that Scandinavia has on music.  There must be something in the water.  This is a part of the world that’s raised bands like Immanu El, Moonlit Sailor and Oh, Hiroshima.  Not to mention Lights & Motion, who this blog is very fond of.  I’m starting to believe I was born in the wrong part of the planet.  Sure, I get to brag about post-metal sojourner’s Minsk, Russian Circles and even Tortoise.  There’s just something about the sound that comes out of Scandinavia that just gets me.

Teller isn’t new to the game.  As I’ve stated before, they have a member from Ef and indie outfits The Gentle Act Incident and Shiloh.  Drifting through the band’s history I learned that Teller is actually an idea that’s been around for almost 15 years.  From what I can gather (whether this was intentional by the band or not) is that they’re more than a group of writers and thinkers.  They’re friends.  The act of communing as a group to write music was almost secondary to their desire to just be in the same room as one another.  To hang out.  To have fun.  I can really get behind this idea.  The band’s desire to just be with one another and write has translated very well musically speaking.


Let me get this out-of-the-way first and foremost as I feel it’s the big elephant in the room: you can hear Ef all over Strive Recess Echo.  This isn’t bad thing at all.  I almost welcome it.  But there’s a ton on this record that sets them apart.  Yes, this is another instrumental rock album, but one that houses some incredibly infectious melodies.

One of the first things that really struck me as I was listening to this record was the musicianship.  Teller are impossibly talented musicians and composers.  And the group of folks they brought in for strings and brass are well deserved of any praise.  I haven’t heard trumpets used this brilliantly since *shels. The horn sections nestle themselves perfectly among the driving guitars adding just the right amount of texture.  There were ofttimes while listening that the song would drop and I would get pumped for the horn sections that wailed away with violent abandon.  I’m not trying to take anything away from the guitar, bass and drums.  Teller have managed to write some insanely gorgeous parts where you find yourself swaying lazily only to be brought back to the real world as they hit a crescendo.  Your heart drops into your stomach.

You’ve been here before with other post-rock bands, but it just feels different.  Teller doesn’t stick around very long on any one phrase.  Just when you’ve fallen in love with one part, they switch it up and you find yourself traversing dark tunnels of eerie ambience.  There are even some ghostly vocal undulations peppered throughout. The use of strings are sparse but always seem to be put in the exact moment when you want to hear them.  Any one that’s a fan of pg. lost‘s early work will be right at home with Teller.  A word of warning: If you go into this record thinking it’s just another loud/quiet/loud post-rock band, you’re going to be left wanting.  Sure, they employ these ingredients with aplomb but Teller has a sound all their own.


Teller -Gustav Recording Drums

In my past reviews I’ve often stuck to a particular theme in my writing to try and convey what it is about the record that I do or do not like.  I’ve decided to forego all the poetic ramblings for a more straightforward approach.  That isn’t because Strive Recess Echo didn’t inspire me in any way.  It’s because I wouldn’t be able to do the album justice.  It’s been four years since Teller’s last release.  Whatever they did in that four years obviously worked.  They noted that during that brief hiatus they were trying to find out who they were musically.  Where they fit in.  Instead, I believe they carved out their own little niche.

As the genre ages it’s becoming more and more difficult to stand out.  Teller does just that.  I’m reviewing this album late.  Strive Recess Echo came out in November completely DIY.  Had I listened to this album while it was still 2017 I would have had no problem putting it in my list of best albums of the year.

Hey Teller, I know it’s only been a couple months since the release but can we have some new material already?


Teller Links:




Teller is:

Erik Banck – Guitar, Vocals & Art work
Torbjörn Henrysson – Guitar
Emanuel Olsson – Guitar, Vocals & sound engineer
Richard Svartz – Bass
Gustav Kronqvist – Drums

All recordings were done by Emanuel.  The album was mixed by Filip Leyman. Daniel Juline produced.

EP Review: Lights & Motion – Bloom

Lights & Motion Bloom EP Cover

Lights & Motion began in the dark recesses and buried corners of insomnia. Without much sun to speak of in the Scandinavian winters of Sweden, Christoffer Franzen took to sequestering himself in a studio to help battle his condition. I’ve suffered from small bouts of insomnolence as well in my life. It is difficult to find a more lonely and helpless feeling. Thankfully, Christoffer was in great company. Through his project, which began in 2012, Lights & Motion has at once been an escape and a release not only for him but for those lucky enough to listen to his music. Franzen has an incredible capacity to write truly inspiriting and somber music. The most incredible part is that it seems to come so easily for him. It may sound like I’m gushing here but with this latest five song EP, entitled Bloom, Lights & Motion is marking its second release and Franzen’s third in just a little over a year. In January of this year Lights & Motion released the spiritual Dear Avalanche while in October he wrote the score for an imaginary movie called Phenomenon under his own name.

I’ve written in length on the influence one’s surroundings have on creativity. Being able to stand at the edges of town with your arms spread out wide and your head tilted back as you gaze at a million points of burning light twinkling in an endless expanse has to play some role in your creative process. The mind behind Lights & Motion admits that the surrounding panorama and dark winters have had a strong influence on everything he’s done…even if he didn’t know it at the time. The seemingly eternal winter brings with it an urge to create. Through this creation it’s as if Lights & Motion set out to will the changing of seasons.

With Bloom, Lights & Motion comes out of hibernation with hopeful eyes ever set on the promise of Spring’s clement touch. It’s about rejuvenation and being born again. It’s about bursting from the sodden, stark loam of winter to blossom anew. I can’t help but think the song Lion wasn’t so named because of the old adage that ‘spring comes in like a lion’. You can hear a sort of revival present in each of the album’s five songs. Light, airy strings swirl around like a soft, vernal breeze accompanied always by glimmering piano or guitar that tiptoe through the songs as if through a puddle after a spring rain. With each lullaby on Bloom you can almost hear the sleepy staccato of rain dreamily pitter-pattering the tin roof of the shed in your backyard. Franzen states that Bloom, like a lot of his music, was written during the darkest months when he’s longing for the changing of seasons. This longing is the catalyst that enables him to write music with a lighter feel, even while the sky outside is a never-ending blanket of grey. Bloom encapsulate perfectly that longing. Or as Franzen puts it ‘a hopeful melancholy’.

Lights & Motion C Franzen

My only gripe with this album is that I want more. From the opening piano chord of the first track ‘Overture’ to the final chord of the last track ‘Lion’, Lights & Motion has created something here that truly transcends sensibility. Many of the tracks are full of lilting phrases that get your heart pumping new, enlivened blood, but there are moments when the weather changes. Lights & Motion won’t flip the script on you with the kind of abrupt crescendo we all know and love/hate with instrumental music. Instead, the tonal aura changes. Franzen relates that the piano and string textures ‘sound very blue-ish in color and tone’ on his newest mini album. This blue-ish tone portrays the quiet battle between a ceaseless winter and the ushering in of the new blessedness of promise.

Lights & Motion is nothing if not consistent. Every release is consistently beautiful. Consistently gut-wrenching. Consistently full of melancholic hopefulness. Franzen just gets it. On the micro-level he’s growing as an artist by experimenting with sounds and textures. You have to admire how unfailing his creativity is with release after release. The guy is pumping out music at an alarming pace and there are no signs of any kind of artistic lull. It’s difficult enough to try and be consistently creative with short gaps between albums, but Lights & Motion finds a way to do it with a faithfulness to his artistic conviction that I adore. At this point, my only advice to Lights & Motion is that if the landscapes of Sweden have as much influence over your writing as you claim – never move.”


Lights & Motion links:








Album Review: pg.lost – Verses

PG Lost

pg. lost – Versus (2016)

Entry point: Ikaros
Personal highlight: Versus

Adding a vocalist is something that every instrumental band I’ve been in has had suggested at one point or another. I’m sure someone at a live gig has come up to pg.lost and said “great sound, where’s your singer?” This music easily lends itself to having a powerful vocalist soar melodically over the top of what’s there. People would buy it. With the right singer, I certainly would.

That being said, it doesn’t have a vocalist – the music must stand on it’s own legs (Hint: it does).

Synthesizers and electronic drums play a large part in rounding out the sound of Versus. Without knowing any background of why pg.lost called this album Versus, it could have easily been a battle between synthesized electronic music and the old school analogue of rock music. Thankfully the two realms don’t put up a fight – the balance between them is perfect in my opinion.

Melding rock music with electronic music can feel tacky at times – particularly with heavier music – yet here it has been handled with mastery. Every note feels deliberate, like a Hitchcock movie – the pauses are there to enrich the inevitable payoff.

The post-rock staples of drones and reverb drenched guitars are used more sparingly, supported by electronic drum samples and synthesizers Versus doesn’t suffer from being different.


Yes, the songs are long with the shortest being over 6 minutes but they don’t dwell. There are slower tunes on the album but enough is happening for them to feel like a breather from the energy of the rest of the album, rather than an anchor to weigh it down. When the album does slow down it gets heavier and more guttural. When it speeds up, the synthesizers and electronic drums drive it along.

Versus features enough variance that you’re unlikely to get bored, it takes time to build yet doesn’t drag. This album has depth that suits itself to many listens in it.

I’d not heard of pg.lost until I’d heard Versus and now I think I’ll be doing some digging through their back catalogue.

Well pleased, do recommend. It fits in the category of “would be ecstatic if I wrote it”.

– Murray

Versus is released on September 16th 2016 internationally.

This review was originally posted on Murray’s site Relative Silence 



Christoffer Franzen Lights Motion Wide Awake

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.


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.


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.