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Landing, "Brocade"

Landing's latest full length album is more of a single symphony than five separate tracks; Brocade is not a song-based album but one long continuous work. The music unwinds at a leisurely pace and is best appreciated all in one sitting.


Strange Attractors

Brocade is largely instrumental (only "How to be Clean" has any vocals) and is bathed in analog synthesizers with lots of guitar effects. There's an unmistakable '70s prog rock sound going on and the pure synths on "Music for Three Synthesizers" are very '80s sounding to me, but Landing keeps it modern and fresh, without playing like they're simply digging up old rock corpses. The music is hypnotic, repetitive, and layered, but by no means dull or heavy.


Despite the building layers it has a very open and spacious feel, a feel which is reinforced by titles like "Loft" and "Yon," bringing up images of empty skies and vast distances (echoed as well in the rather barren landscape on the album's cover). "Spiral Arms" is similarly well-named; if you could put a galaxy into sound, it might just sound like this. The static buzz carried over from "Yon" gives way to delicate acoustic guitar and electronic swoops and blowing winds. "How to be Clean" is a rocker and adds enough movement and energy to the mix to keep this guitar-rock girl happy.

I found it difficult to listen to Brocade at work; in addition to the usual cube farm noise and coworker interruptions, Winamp's pauses between tracks made the transitions jarring, most notably between "Yon" and "Spiral Arms" and between "Spiral Arms" and "How to be Clean." This is one to listen to at home with a glass of wine in a darkened room or on a long lonely car trip, and it's certainly not one for the iPod Shuffle.

 

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Review of the Day

AMM, "At the Roundhouse"
Anomalous
This 1972 recording catches the iconoclastic British improv ensemble around the time of To Hear and Back Again, where the group was temporarily reduced to the duo of saxophonist Lou Gare and drummer Eddie Prévost. This is the interim period coming after AMM's first recordings, those groundbreaking mini-epics of sax and string-strewn factory ambience, and before the group's later, arguably more "mature" phase, marked by the introduction of John Tilbury's piano and a calmer, more subtle playing style. In '72, the temporary absence of Keith Rowe's tabletop guitar and electronics meant the disappearance of nearly all of the colorful industrial abstractions that made the group's early work such an unclassifiable joy, and in response, the duo of Gare and Prévost dips heavily into free jazz for this performance at London's Roundhouse, anticipating their work on Hear and Back two years later. The players are clearly competent and practiced communicators, making the disc's 47 minutes ample time for a few dozen beautiful moments to emerge, but it's easy to feel disappointed with Roundhouse as it's really only a sidestep in the path of a group whose best work lies both ahead and behind. Gare demonstrates a keen appreciation for the free-fractured melodic style of late-period Coltrane, merging with the wayward stabs of Arkestran contemporary John Gilmore; however these abilities had been previously established on the first two AMM records where they found brighter placement within the rich textures of the expanded ensemble, alongside Cornelius Cardew's disembodied cello. The saxophonist is more impressive during Roundhouse's quieter passages where, removed from distraction or compliment, the soft arcs, low warbles, and the other more textural elements of his playing can be fully appreciated (and picked out of other recordings). Prévost's playing is, for the most part, a disappointment. Given the completely alien repertoire of sound I know the drummer to be capable of, his relatively straight-laced performance here becomes my biggest criticism of the disc. Prévost might have been forgiven had he hung back to allow for more subdued interaction with Gare's tenor, but instead he insists on punctuating most everything with tight, exhaustive snare rolls that prove tedious before the halfway point. In contrast to other AMM discs where one unbroken piece receives (seemingly) arbitrary track divisions, Roundhouse's single track includes numerous pauses, which, oddly enough, become the music's biggest asset. Continually easing their instruments into and out of silence, Gare and Prévost are forced to repeatedly regenerate the piece from scratch, molding listener anticipation and crafting an increasingly complex work. Also, the recording leaves a considerable amount of audience noise and room ambience audible, allowing these sounds to blend with those from the two musicians and recalling the famous AMM credo: "Every noise has a note." During particular lulls in the playing, as distant coughs and shuffles enter the mix, I can almost hear the static edge of the absent Rowe's shortwave radio, as if this room and these people were just something he was lucky enough to find on the dial as the sax and drums started to die down. Moments like these are enough to make Roundhouse worthwhile and to remind me that even mediocre AMM discs make for irresistible listening.

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