At this point, LITE’s identity has been well-established. Throughout the years they’ve cultivated their blend of light-hearted progressive/math rock, the kind that evokes imagery of sun-drenched beaches and sparkling ocean water. And no matter how static such a formula may get, it will remain pleasant at the minimum. Had LITE opted entirely for complacency, Cubic would still be an easily digestible album, albeit one leaving very little of an aftertaste.
Initially, it would seem that Cubic mostly hits the standard marks of a LITE album. The opener “Else” is the first exposure of the crisp, slightly resonant guitar tone of Cubic that slots into the open-sounding production. Curiously, the guitars seem to be mixed a little lower than usual — but this may make more sense as the album goes on. “Balloon” flows fluidly – it’s the relaxed, breezy track that we’ve come to expect from the band. For the most part, Cubic still consists of the customary instrumental pieces that the Japanese band is known for, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; “Warp” inserts some lively soloing making the song feels more adventurous, “Angled” and “D” find its grooves to a syncopated beat, and “Prism” employs playful guitar solo that might be a fun tribute to archetypal space-themed songs. “Zero,” one of the two songs that also includes vocals, is particularly clever with its quizzical upwards runs, which leave a mark of uncertainty that fits entirely with the question being asked. It’s difficult not to enjoy, at least to some degree, the effortlessly upbeat feel of such tracks; you’d be hard-pressed to find something blatantly wrong with their core.
But that’s not it, of course. On Cubic, LITE experiment throughout the record. These are songs which are decidedly outside of habitual territory: unusually, they are driven by electronic beats, and the guitars often stand aside to provide support to the glitchy synthetic landscape. The fact that these ten songs fit coherently into Cubic should count as a success for LITE — they’re stylistically distinct, veering into the realms of different styles, yet they seamlessly continue the atmosphere of the rest of the album. These “unconventional” pieces are strategically scattered throughout Cubic to provide variety, and I think they work: LITE’s core principles of songwriting are still intact, but they have now been applied in a way that demonstrates flexibility.
In an alternative universe this could have been nothing more than easy-going music with just the right amount of complexity to prevent it from immediately going stale. LITE could have chosen to pursue the path of simple pleasures, but they’ve thrown in new ingredients into the mix and it’s more than sweet.
Cubic is available from Topshelf Records in vinyl format in different colors, including black, blue, yellow and red. The Blue Vinyl edition we reviewed here is limited to 147 copies, it comes in a gatefold sleeve with poster included. See photos below.