Eat Lights Become Lights

By Anne Louise Kershaw

Heavy electrics and eternal creative landscapes.


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It has been said that Eat Lights Become Lights wears its influences on its sleeve.

“I try very hard to add something of myself to the music of ELBL. I can’t see the point in just parodying your idols and adding nothing new or interesting or personal to the music. I see nothing worthwhile or fulfilling in that approach.” explains it’s creator, Neil Rudd.

In its bassest form Eat Lights Become Lights produce music that is instrumental and electronic. It has been greatly compared to the likes of Kraftwerk and Neu! and regularly you can find the terms Krautrock and Kosmische knitted into reviews. In some respects these references are justified:

“I’ve always had more of an affinity with instrumental music”, says Rudd. Yet there can be a danger in over-pinning genres and comparisons to an act, both for creator and listener. The comparisons made of Eat Lights Become Lights are correct with their connections to the instrumental – three single releases and two albums have yet to see a single vocal – yet rather than wearing influences, it seems that ELBL wear-out the possibilities within them, offering up something new for the listener. “I think it allows the listener to paint their own picture as to what the music is about or what it means to them and how it makes them feel on a one-to-one level.”

Within the freedom of an individual creative space, Rudd’s studio exploration of alternative musical approaches took on a new dynamic.

It seems for Eat Lights Become Lights that the one-to-one focus is important, from the idea’s embryonic process through to the stereo speakers. The brainchild of writer and producer Neil Rudd who performs with a collective of like-minded musicians, the Eat Lights collective, it began around 2006/07 in London as “a side project to the band I was in at the time. ELBL existed solely in the studio as demos and a way of trying out alternative musical approaches. As the music grew and progressed it quickly became apparent that it was far more enjoyable than the work I was doing in the band so it became my main thing.”

Within the freedom of an individual creative space, Rudd’s studio exploration of alternative musical approaches took on a new dynamic.

“Initially I was more influenced by minimalist and drone artists – Spacemen 3, early Spiritualized, Loop, Steve Reich, Ali Farka Toure as well as the more obvious electronic sources. As the music developed I could see I was kind of painting myself into a corner, so to speak. I think that’s when the more electronic based influences started taking over. They presented an almost limitless palette of sounds and variations, especially within the creation stage of making music.”

I like that it’s kind of a statement or mantra alluding to something a bit nebulous

Using these sources, less as a guidebook and more as a platform, this new dynamic evolved. Beginning with the name Eat Lights Become Lights:

“I was looking for an interesting title to hang the music on. Something memorable but not the usual one word band name thing, which is so common in this kind of music. I like that it’s kind of a statement or mantra alluding to something a bit nebulous”. It certainly offers audiences an anchor point from which to explore the sound, which, through all stages of development, remains fibre-optic at the core.

From debut single ‘They Transmit’ to current album ‘Heavy Electrics’, Eat Lights Become Lights have utilised a dimensional layering process throughout all stages of productivity. This method takes on every facet, from visuals to associated artists.

“The first thing I put out was single called ‘They Transmit’. The A-Side was a pretty heavy drone/kraut/fuzz kinda deal with a nice motorik outro. The flip was a remix of a track I’d recorded for the first album called ‘Musik for Motorways’. It was remixed by Chris Olley from Six; by Seven. He’s a massive Kraut head and has/had his own side project thing going called “Twelve” which was an amazing electronic/kosmische/motorik thing which was a massive influence on ELBL”.

While ‘They Transmit’ certainly demonstrates an early employment of fantastically layered-up sonics, B-side ‘Musik For Motorways’ more thoroughly wires into electric sockets. Audio ranges from the sweeping rushes of a spaceship door, through grind guitars to light and ploddy key arpeggios. All topped with a keyboard riff that could have come from the final song of an ‘80s teen movie love scene.

The cover for the single is starkly monochromatic depicting a circular Hindu-esque illustrated collection of gargoyles and myths. It is both blatant and beautiful. The aesthetics were yet another creative element for Rudd, used to expand and enrich the experience:

“I think it is vital that the artwork is representative of the music within and that the identity of the band/music is alluded to within the art.” For the first few singles “the art was done by a great graphic artist I know called Rod Harrison. He’s a really creative guy and he understood the multi-layered sound of the band and tried, very successfully I thought, to represent this visually.”


It plays out like a robot’s favourite greatest hits collection and ranges from ponderous droid-esque shoegaze to the sound a hundred excitable tanks would make if they were dancing to disco.

Having found freedom in making music independently, Rudd’s ideas continued to ripple. From initial textural ramblings, Eat Lights Become Lights took a directive shift for debut album ‘Autopia’. Experimental focus steered towards “making something that sounded quite immediate and catchy, hence tracks like ‘Test Drive’.”

Autopia is both mechanical and airily atmospheric. It plays out like a robot’s favourite greatest hits collection and ranges from ponderous droid-esque shoegaze to the sound a hundred excitable tanks would make if they were dancing to disco.

While Autopia received positive reviews and saw further textural developments, Rudd took another sharp turn when he signed to Rocket Girl in 2011 and began creating ‘Heavy Electrics’.

“Heavy Electrics was a very considered record I spent a lot of time working out exactly the sort of record I wanted to make and how it would change and develop over its running time.” This contrasts strongly with ‘Autopia’ which was made “with a mandate that the tracks had to be able to work as singles”.

Continuing his initial experimentation with alternative musical approaches, ‘Heavy Electrics’ was conceived as “a number of different passages of music leading up to a conclusion or finale. I was keen to try and write something with more depth than the previous album which was based around a pop sensibility. ‘Heavy Electrics’ was my attempt at pushing the borders a bit with regards to my approach to writing music. I was very keen to create something that evolved and developed musically as it progressed. The music is intended to be rewarding, as the tracks are fairly long in parts. The longer material is intended to evolve as the piece progresses and to take to listener with it. I wanted to try and create an experience for the listener akin to travel and discovery.”

Many of tracks are well over the 8 minute mark and allow ample sonic space for envelopment. ‘Heavy Electrics’ certainly takes you on a journey. Eat Lights Become Lights’ most accomplished work to date, it plays out like a film soundtrack forcing you through the exploration of various emotions via widely ranging sonic textures, strong directional melodies and vastly diverse drum rhythms, acoustic, analogue and digital. Rudd further amplifies this epic jaunt not just through the artwork and geometrically charged video, but also the considered choice of track titles.

“Track names are massively important to me as they are setting the tone of the music to follow. I want them to be descriptive and intriguing, so you are thinking of imagery before you’ve even listened to the music.”

I didn’t want something that was instantly apparent on first viewing. I wanted the listener/viewer to get something new out of the record every time they picked it up to play it.

The intention to use references as a tool for exploration rather than a stick to beat you with, is reinforced with this consideration. Many track titles denote strong sci-fi inclinations such as the deliciously spacious but haunting landscape of ‘Syd Mead Cityscape’ (Syd Mead AKA ‘visual futurist’ and designer of films such as ‘Alien’, ‘Bladerunner’ and ‘Tron’). The track expands over 9 minutes 30 seconds and sounds as though the theme tune from the 1970s documentary programme ‘World In Action’ has been deconstructed and pieced back together in the Nevada desert.

“Heavy Electrics was recorded in London initially then in Los Angeles where I lived for the last couple of years. I think living in California certainly had an impact on the music, maybe it was all the wide open spaces and desert.

“I’ve always had an interest in ideas and themes of utopia and a very ‘70’s approach to this ideal. I’m obsessed with Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Alien’ and the design work within them. Syd Mead, the concept artist, is a massive influence on my work. I also love the almost kitschy 70’s future that is embodied in films like ‘Logans Run’, ‘Silent Running’ and ‘2001’. ‘70’s German music I guess is the obvious driver for the music of ELBL as well as great film soundtracks.”

Other tracks on ‘Heavy Electrics’ link directly to that musical heritage. ‘Le Kraut III” is certainly the most psyche/krautrock-esque track on the album. Whichever direction they take, they take you with them, guiding you on a voyage of your making.

“I choose titles in a number of ways, either they refer to something that has influenced the track or it has come from something I’ve been carrying round in my head that’s caught my attention and I’ve thought it sounded emotive and interesting. I’ve a file on my phone that is called ‘song titles’ that gets added to daily. ‘Sunrise at Marwar Junction’ comes from John Huston’s the ‘Man Who Would Be King’. One of the characters says he will meet the other in a week at Marwar Junction on the Indian Railway. I always thought it sounded quite intriguing and romantic and wrote the track to match my thoughts.”

While signed to Rocket Girl, “The Great Pop Supplement handled the vinyl release of ‘Heavy Electrics’, which is a tri-coloured vinyl and looks incredible.” The cover was produced by the artist Simon Coates under Rudd’s art direction. It develops the layered and mirrored theme of previous pieces, but is purposefully fuller and more complex; almost Geiger-esque and mechanical.

“I was really keen to progress the layers idea and create something that kept revealing its secrets over time. I didn’t want something that was instantly apparent on first viewing. I wanted the listener/viewer to get something new out of the record every time they picked it up to play it.”

Taking influences into hand and seeing what shapes you can shift them into is a creative mechanism Rudd revels in. Stimuli range from traditional sources, such as music and film, to more conceptual sources:

“The Barbican in London is one of my favorite places anywhere; it’s like walking through a 70’s Sci-fi film. I love it there.”

Like a cultural magpie, Rudd harbours trinkets to transpose into something tangible by sound and sight:

“I get inspiration from innumerable diverse areas. Though all tend to share a common aesthetic within them. I love graphic artists, especially those that work in abstraction. I read a lot, William Gibson being a big favourite. I’m a massive photography fan, usually nocturnal cityscapes; comic books and graphic novels etc. I guess it’s all tied in with interesting, emotive visual experiences.”

The video to ‘Bound For Magic Mountain’ demonstrates a fully-charged use of the graphic. Bearing in mind Rudd wishes to take you on a voyage of discovery, the opening track on ‘Heavy Electrics’ tells you very much that this voyage is to be hyper-charged and fully kinetic. It sounds as though R2D2 (with chronic ADHD) has been let loose with a hundred bouncy balls in a warehouse full of analogue synthesizers. The video demonstrates the multi-directional but extremely focused propulsive drive with a continuous monochromatic tunneling of geometrically squared structures. The shortest track on the album at only 4 minutes forty three seconds, it leaves you breathless and bouncing on the couch for more.

Although ‘Heavy Electrics’ is newly released, Rudd maintains his futuristic outlook:

“I’m currently recording tracks for album number 3 and rehearsing the new line up. Early next year Rocket Girl Records are re-releasing our debut LP Autopia as a double disc package. The bonus disc will have out-takes and alternative versions of tracks off the album as well as a few B-sides and remixes.”

“I also run an occasional night called Klub Motorik and later in the year we are doing a few shows out of London, Manchester and Preston and in May we are supporting Damo Suzuki in London. After that… Who knows?”

With ‘Heavy Electrics’ on loop, I’m keeping myself fully charged for finding out.

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Posted Friday, March 1st, 2013

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