Canadian solo artist Lights regularly packs the wallop of an entire orchestra. Her latest recording project contains interesting takes of songs from her earlier lauded album "Little Machines." "Midnight Machines" maintains a heartfelt intensity best heard late at night. This sonically cohesive record offers a rich, intimate experience complete with the catchy melodies that haven't been discarded even in a different context.
This is a great companion piece to "Little Machines." The new arrangements on "Midnight Machines" may not feature the grinding sound of an electric guitar or a quick line of melody from a keyboard, but a lot of the same nuances are still there. These acoustic remixes sustain the original structures while being more appropriate for a coffee shop, restaurant or a solo listening party at home than a dance club. Probably the most rearranged song from "Little Machines" is "Running With The Boys" which, without the boops and the beeps, becomes more nostalgic without wandering into maudlin territory.
I enjoy "Midnight" versions more than "Little" versions, because I prefer the sound of the human voice over other instruments. Sometimes, the presence of many instruments including pre-recorded vocal tracks can cover the dynamics of a voice when other sounds are layered onto a track, but quickly stripping away layers down to a single instrument can be dissonant. Lights' live acoustic performances of "Muscle Memory" are much closer to this version than the recording on "Little Machines" although both versions are brilliant. Additional layering of voices in "Muscle Memory" builds a beautiful choral ensemble for several pure moments. "Little Machines" is very much electro-pop while "Midnight Machines" isn't.
Fans of Lights shouldn't be afraid that "Midnight Machines" represents a step away from electronic dance music. The two new tracks as well as the "Midnight" versions of earlier songs hint only that she has the ability to replace keyboards with cellos or synthesizers with acoustic guitars without sacrificing production quality. "Head Cold" illustrates this best, with the call and response I associate with good dance music. The repetition of memorable patterns and meaningful lyrics that make her music so iconic are still present. Up-tempo synth has been discarded on this album, but in this case, it allowed her to play with different soundscapes.