Since the innovation and implementation of electronic elements into the music-making process as early as mid-20th-century, there has almost just as long existed a contingent of hard-headed naysayers who cry to the heavens that the kind of music produced by soulless chipsets and circuit boards could never evoke the raw emotion and true feeling delivered by traditional instrumentation alone. But it is with the continual release of bodies of work just like the effervescent proof of concept ‘Brightest Lights’ that evidence in the case against such outdated beliefs, much like the music held therein, progressively surmounts, and to only the most stubborn of which then must have never heard the musings of Daniel Goldstein, better known to the world under the moniker Lane 8.
The third in a series of full-length releases teased after a string of huge singles by the Denver-based producer following 2018’s impeccable sophomore effort ‘Little By Little’, here again, does Goldstein deliver a wide variety of different moods and atmospheres in the thirteen-strong track offering with one exceptional caveat – the fearless utilisation of the major key. Don’t get it wrong, ‘Brightest Lights’ is first and foremost a dance record, but one that would be just as at home rattling the headspace between a humble pair of earphones as it would the walls of a nightclub. In a post-Deadmau5 world where all from melancholic downtempo to even commercial EDM now rarely strays far from the minor keys, the liberal use of lighter melodic elements typically shunned for fear of tacky and improper implementation is nothing short of refreshing.
Even from the opening track ‘Groundhog Day’ does this motif of positivity begin to permeate, and it’s one that carries through even late into the LP with tracks like Arctic Lake feature ‘Don’t Let Me Go’. Thematically there also exists a strong synergy between sound design, sample selection and lyricism. Signature Lane 8 arpeggios and polyrhythms like in album singles ‘Just’ and ‘Sunday Song’ soar over a foundation of warm, analog pads and eclectic percussion as the crooning howls of the Rüfüs Du Sol–reminiscent performance of Jens Kuross on surprise favourite ‘Two Yard Stone’ linger in mind after the repeated listens that the album demands. We are still of course also treated to a few unapologetic dance numbers dotted intermittently throughout, with more unabashed entries in the form of futuristic ‘The Gift’ and the all-enveloping ‘The Flood’.
On the topic of the difference in approach compared to his previous full-length, Goldstein notes ‘I think the visions were more similar than they were different. I didn’t drastically change the way I approached them from a production or writing standpoint. Thematically though, Brightest Lights is (surprise) a lot happier and more uplifting, at least to me’.
The irony here is that even though ‘Brightest Lights’ isn’t boldly claiming to be anything grander than it really is, it becomes just that in its attempt to do so. Much like the intimacy of Lane 8’s aptly titled ‘This Never Happened’ label features and live event series of the same name (wherein cell-phone use is famously banned), the album’s mission statement gives a lasting impression just as underplayed as it is in tandem. It’s affirmative, it’s uplifting, and most of all it’s honest, but it’s ultimately in the very pursuit of these ideologies that the brilliance of ‘Brightest Lights’ is allowed to shine exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.