It’s been a wallet-and-turntable straining time for the Deep Distance label so far this year. With tightly-scheduled back-to-back LP releases of choice psych-infused expansiveness from Zofff and Yerba Mansa, kosmische heterogeneity courtesy of Sula Bassana and an enlightening expanded reissue of Colin Potter’s 1980 DIY milestone The Ghost Office, even true devotees of the imprint could be forgiven for not quite keeping up with the relentlessly generous production rate. To top-off this banquet of benevolent gluttony, along to the table comes a new long-in-the-works platter from London’s Eat Lights Become Lights.
Although it’s taken ELBL’s mercurial leader Neil Rudd Branquinho a while to bring us this belated follow-up to 2014’s Into Forever, the freshly-factory-pressed Nature Reserve certainly doesn’t feel like a slothful or bloated affair – quite the contrary in fact. Adopting a looser and at times rawer approach, with the more prominent positioning of live drummer John Barrett and the greater use of guitars alongside synths and electronics, this eight-track long-player wraps up both speed and serenity into a well-rounded bundle.
Tearing straight-off the runway at the start, the rocket-fuelled title-track and “Getting Dressed For The Future” open proceedings with a head-spinning urgency that re-imagines Neu! recorded in a basement, with post-punk-ish energy replacing studio cleanliness. After this initial binge of adrenaline, proceedings follow a calmer path with an ensuing triumvirate of pensive soundscapes for the rest of the first side. Thus, “Ascension” glides into amniotic Brian Eno-meets-Harmonia luxuriance before bleeding into the balmy retro-space-age serenity of “Dust” and the gorgeous Lazed Guided Melodies-era Spiritualized referencing of “A Distant Point Of Light”.
At the start of the second side things take a darker turn and twist with “Set Fire To The Sun (Supernova Mix)”; which begins with a passage of post-apocalyptic atmospherics and half-buried Sonic Boom-like vocals (presumably Rudd’s) before ripping into a garage-rock-goes-motorik coda. More cohesive is the lengthy unfurling of “The Great Up Above”, wherein a murky elemental prologue gradually spreads out into a soothing symphonic synth exploration for arguably the album’s finest few minutes. Nature Reserve concludes with another multi-part piece, “Serving Through Science”, which moves from ghosts-in-the-machine burbling and droning into euphoric drum-and-synth-propelled autobahn-cruising, making friendly nods to the vintage works of La Düsseldorf and likeminded latter-day labelmates Rhododendron along the way.
Admittedly, there is perhaps nothing sonically radical or brand new inside Nature Reserve but its alchemical cross-fusions are for the most part so ear-pleasingly potent that it matters little. An engaging high-grade return for Eat Lights Become Lights in short.