Way back in July of 2002, a hot summer when this site was brand new, i reviewed a CD i had picked up by a Connecticut psychedelic band. The record was called Oceanless by Landing and the review is, well, not bad for something i wrote way back when i was starting this career as a Music Critic.
And here is it, just under 16 years later and this is my 23rd Landing review, including 2 side projects, 2 concerts (with 2 other concerts unreviewed), 2 appearances as remixers, one split EP, 3 compilations, and, with this review, 13 reviews of Landing records.
It's been quite a journey, and over the years Landing have grown to be my favorite currently active band. There is a tremendous depth in the music they have released, from that early psychedelic release, through pastoral sparse pop, meandering ambient, and now into shoegazerish dreampop.
I cannot think of any other band that this site has such a long history with that continues to surprise and delight me so much.
Bells In New Town also features an external producer for a change. That is, instead of recording this record themselves, Landing hired Justin Pizzoferrato to man the boards for them. Mr. Pizzoferrato has done a similar function for Parquet Courts, Dinosaur Jr, and Sonic Youth, among many other acts. He brings a different focus and balance to this recording, and i think he did a great job. Pizzoferrato produced Landing very clear, very sparse, letting each sound have its own space and doing some very delicate layering that sounds great on headphones!
The album starts off with a frantic metronomic click and then guitar, noodling fast, with bass rumbling and drums thudding. Nod is louder than the last few Landing releases, and starts off this album angry. You can tell that Aaron Snow has also been playing in rock band Kindling lately: this is more shoegaze, less dreampop. Aaron even rocks out with a guitar solo. Wonderful.
So of course Landing slow it down for the next track, By Two, which starts with a keyboard drone and Aaron picking an acoustic. Instead of the fever rock dream of the opener, this is Landing being pastoral. The drums kick in, the guitar goes electric, and Adrienne Snow sings her hushed vocals as the song moves along nicely. In the middle, Aaron and Adrienne harmonize as the keyboards swell up. Beautiful.
A short interlude is next with Gravitational VII, the latest in this long-running series of noodling ambient tunes. Aaron coaxes slow notes out of his guitar and Adrienne teases a keyboard drone. This is slow, vaguely melancholy, pretty, and done in just over two minutes.
And then, wonder of wonders, a motorik beat kicks in: steady drumming and bassist Daron Gardner finding a deep groove in Bright. Adrienne's keyboards are in deep space here, trilling and soaring while Aaron keeps a chiming guitar riff. He sings this one, echoed and distorted. This is awesome, like Landing's psychedelia filtered through Fujiya and Miyagi. Love it.
Secret is next, a typical Landing song that grows with an epic slowness. It is only five and a half minutes long -- no long drones or deep tryyps here! Landing have too much to show us. Halfway in, the ambiance pops into a nice ticking drum beat and Adrienne singing. Nice.
Now, if you are a geek like me and bought the vinyl, here is where your flip it. On the A-side, Landing have given us shoegaze to pastoral ambiance to krautrock to pop.
The B-side kicks off with Fallen Name. A steady drum beat ticks along behind Aaron's voice and tinkling guitar. On the choruses (since when does Landing have choruses? I dunno -- they just kind of snuck up on me too!) the song swells up and Adrienne sings. This is ... this is Landing making a standard 1990s indie rock song. And they do it well.
After the indie rock fades, we are hit with Aaron's guitar squealing on Wait Or Hide. The drum is harsher here, his voice echoed, the keyboards spacey. This is Landing rocking hard, the guitar distorted and angry. They do shoegaze well.
Another interlude of ticking drum machine and echoed keys is back from Gravitational VIII. The ambiance here serves as a break between the rock of Wait Or Hide and the acoustic pastoralness of Trace. This Adrienne-sung tune reminds me of their Seasons record, one of my favorites by them. This is a lovely song.
And then, finally, we have Second Sight. This is a great shoegaze tune. The guitar whirs like The Autumns on the verses and Slowdive on the choruses (there is that verse-chorus-verse structure again!). Aaron's voice is clear here, and Daron's bass thumps along mightily. This is amazing! It is very pretty, then swells up to a noisy crest on the choruses before fading out.
I listen to this album and i am stunned. This is the same band that released an album with two 21 minute long meandering guitar epics? And here they are with 4 and 5 minute songs with a conventional structure, songs that, quite frankly, rock. Landing did not rock back on Oceanless, instead they took a strange path of exploration and play.
And they have continued to do that for the past 16 years as i have followed them. They have released records that are uniquely theirs, albums that combine that deep psychedelia and a love of ambient music, albums that veer off in strange directions at times.
Years ago i realized that Landing were on a journey of their own making, and that i could either follow along for a strange and sometimes difficult ride, or leave them to wander in the music wilderness. They walk their own path, and i feel that following them has been a very rewarding journey.
Bells In New Towns is nothing at all like Oceanless, but both records are interesting and worth hearing. Landing continue to blow my mind with their records, and i am glad that i have stuck with them all these years.
I cannot wait to see what they do next.