I like that you don’t have to look to the obvious countries (hello US, UK and Scandinavia!) anymore to find really good post-rock. Good post-rock is being written all over the world these days. But to give credit where credit is due, Germany has been doing more than their fair share of heavy post-rock lifting the last couple of years.
There’s A Light from Lahr, Germany, released their second full length album For What May I Hope? For What Must We Hope? last December and there is no doubt they reached new heights as a band with this album. With more than 11,000 monthly listeners the band can’t be called underground anymore, but they probably haven’t even been on the keen post-rock listeners’ radar.
Since releasing their first EP Khartoum in 2012 and the full length A Long Lost Silence in 2018, the band signed with Napalm Records before the release For What May I Hope? For What Must We Hope?. From a production perspective, this album certainly sounds like a big label release. This is immediately apparent from the first notes of the album.
The album opener “… The Storm Will Set The Sails” opens with sounds wide and aspirational. Choirs immediately draw you in and together with ominous toms set a melancholy tone. The specific ways certain instruments are made to sound, like the piano on this opening track, are used throughout the album and makes it feel really coherent and pleasant when you listen to it as a whole.
This is post-rock in a more traditional sense, which to me, is a real positive. The band is confident enough in their composing abilities and doesn’t hide behind extra layers for audio production sake. Each instrumental and occasional vocal layer are meant to construct the objective, to captivate the listener and provoke emotional association.
To me, “Magnolia”, the third song on the album, is a highlight and a great example of the composing skills which There’s A Light display. It is effective but minimalistic to start of with and follows the often used but effective buildup to a more heavy and melancholy ending. It made me feel pensive, but with a clearly positive undertone.
“Like the Earth Orbits Sun” is the first song where vocals are introduced. To me the vocals are an extra instrumental layer that adds to the mood, and although used sparingly, are very effective and adds to the distinctiveness of There’s A Light.
Songs like “Within the Tides”, “Dark Clouds Behind, Bright Skies Ahead” are very guitar focused, where the latter has a beautifully arranged string theme that would be fitting accompanying a pivotal and dramatic scene in a movie. When one of the guitars takes over the theme later in the song, and more up tempo drums, my heart is lifted. Great arranging!
Another personal highlight is “Refugium”: With fragile melodies and a heartbreakingly beautiful atmosphere the observant listener will recognize the string theme from “Dark Clouds Behind, Bright Skies Ahead” that us brought back in a more intimate setting. This time played on a trumpet or possibly a horn. Equally stunning and effective in bringing multiple songs together.
“Be Brave, Fragile Heart” brings the strongest elements of the album together. Great vocals, strong guitar themes, that distinct piano sound. It is no surprise this song was chosen to create a video for. It is a microcosm of all there is to love on For What May I Hope? For What Must We Hope? and a perfect to draw the listener in to listen to the rest of the album. You can watch the video here.
Time to talk about the final two songs on the album, “Appearance of Earth” and “Even in the Darkest Place…” To me, and consider this my personal opinion and perception, these songs feel like an homage to what I feel is one of the best albums ever Departure Songs by We Lost The Sea. The sound fragments of radio communication between Apollo 11 and ground control on “Appearance of Earth” are very reminiscent of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight”. The opening guitar sound on “Even in the Darkest Place…” and octave driven added guitar also show a strong resemblance “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” with before circling back to sounding more like the rest of the For What May I Hope? For What Must We Hope? and ending a great album with a heavy and moody bass driven riff lightened with ethereal guitar and key melodies to leave the listener satisfied and contemplative. A great release by There’s A Light that makes me curious about what is still to come.