A Journal Of The Dark Arts
New Haven, CT’s Landing return with a beguiling mixture of shoegaze, psych rock, dream pop, slowcore, and kosmische for their 10th LP. It’s one of their best – slated to become a modern psychedelic shoegaze masterpiece.
Speaking on this summer’s beautifully atmospheric Third Sight, music journalist/guitarist J Hubner wrote,
Third Sight is a beautiful escape from reality. It envelopes you into a cloud of repeating motifs and escalating white noise. Landing make these kaleidoscopes of sound that feel impressionistic and avante garde at the same time. Saying it’s ambient music takes some of the heaviness and headiness this great band creates away, so I’ll call what they make dream psych. Third Sight feels and sounds like an epiphany. Simple, yet all encompassing. – J Hubner, Third Sight review @ Backseatmafia
New Wave shoegaze (refuse to call it nu-gaze), as well as modern psychedelia, are difficult to chart and trace. It’s like trying to track an electron across the wild, wooly depths of non-temporal reality, hopping to and fro, with a logic and reason all their own.
In regards to the confusion, the /r/indieheads community on Reddit, touched on the confusion, and some of its possible causes, especially in regards to shoegaze.
Genres like folk, jazz, blues, synthpop, psych rock, and ambient are typically easy to identify, as they’re defined in terms of their sound or aesthetics. There’s certainly an element of that to shoegaze as well, but what makes shoegaze more difficult to pinpoint is the fact that it describes both a style and movement.
Landing are absolute titans in the realm of 21st Century shoegaze/psychedelia, even if many don’t realize they are standing in their shadow. Releasing their first album in 2001, Landing pre-dated the shoegaze revival by a couple of years and, dare i say it, were integral in its reappraisal. Rising from the post-Ptolemaic Terrascope starscape, along with other millennial masters of moody guitarwork like Windy & Carl, Landing would go on to carve a beguiling niche of dreamy, delayed guitars, ethereal vocals, sci-fi synthesis, kosmische minimalism, blended with real heart & emotionality.
Complekt blurs and blends each of these styles into a compelling impressionistic blur – combining many familiar elements into something entirely singular and brand-new.
Album opener “Light” creeps on like the sunrise, with soothing analog synths pulsing and bleeping while a simple two-note guitar line is refracted like a string of white Christmas lights on a patch of black ice on the sidewalk. The gentle reverie doesn’t last, as title track “Complekt” kicks the action into hyperspace, when furiously churning fuzz guitars meet an irregular motorik beat and gentle, abstracted vocals. It’s a fine instance of Landing becoming more than the sum of their parts, as “Complekt” is actually superior to many lesser kosmische bands from the first wave. It’s all in that extra beat, like Dave Brubeck being covered by Deerhunter, turning the beat around and inside out in unexpected, organic ways, as opposed to the entirely predictable 4/4 grooves pioneered by Jaki Liebezeit or Klaus Dinger.
Landing have seemingly perused a vast catalog of visionary music, refining pop nuggets into gems of pure poetic transcendence. Track 3, “Weft”, bears an uncanny resemblance to the guitar riff from Jefferson Airplane’s “Today”, underpinning the glassy harmonics with a subtle, swinging polyrhythmic beat. Not only does “Weft” manage to make that deep, dusty cut seem classy AF, they also get bonus points for massive crate digging and rarefied instincts.
These instincts have served them well, over the course of their 15 years. Landing are, quite simply, one of the most compelling arbiters of rock/electronic hybridization, which remains one of the most exciting realms of possibility in modern music (in this reviewer’s opinion). While too many lesser bands sound rough, raw, and mixed straight-to-tape (which we also enjoy, but in a different way), Landing polish every sonic element to sublime perfection. Guitars tremble and shiver like cobwebs in a dewy field at dawn, while synths hum and glisten like some weather anomaly, instead of sounding like a bunch of colored blocks on a screen.
At the end of the day, Landing have a clear, unique vision and something personal and distinctive to say, which makes all the difference, in today’s oversaturated musical world of substance-over-style.
Landing are also a fine example of a peculiar strain of East Coast shoegaze/psychedelia, along with bands like Boston’s Swirlies. Where My Bloody Valentine might sound like driving down idyllic country roads – most likely due to supporting visuals during the bands’ live sets – Landing’s hometown of New Haven, CT is a particular kind of Old World Americana, being the home of Yale University. Traditional images of wooded expanse are layered with scenes of ivy-gilded Ivy League campuses, while the sun sets over distant lighthouses, with the sea-scented breeze carrying a bit of a marshy, boggy earthiness.
As with all of the posts of this last week, this marks the beginning of two new investigations (or more like coming to grips with what we’ve been doing the whole time): Regional Sounds and Expanded Aesthetics. It’s become trite to mention that we’re living in an age beyond genre, and yet, genres are still used as shorthand (especially among music journalists and fans). Taken at face value, they’re not that useful. But we’ve been working behind the scenes, pondering data and ripping the masks off of artwork of all medium, genre, and era, looking for a unified artistic field theory.
As time goes on, we intend to illustrate what exactly shoegaze is, and means, taking into consideration the dense constellation of associated adjectives, images, personal memories and reflections, dream logic, stream-of-consciousness, using a combination of modern data science and some good ol’ fashion intuition. When successful, we hope to blend scientific rigor, academic thoroughness, and mystical, poetic reverie, to truly master the modern world we’re living in.
As always, as ever, i call upon your thoughts and expertise. Today’s question is triplicate:
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Tune into every Sunday night/Monday morning for Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness @ Freeform Portland! Exploring the dark side of techno, hip-hop, shoegaze, metal, psych, folk, and soundtrack. You can listen to the archives online @ mixcloud.com/for3stpunk.