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Yellow6 / Rothko / Landing - New Found Land

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Artist: Yellow6 / Rothko / Landing

Album: New Found Land

Label: The Music Fellowship

Review date: Nov. 4, 2003

Derived from the ancient Greek root triptychos, the “triptych” was a medieval art form that presented a painting or sculpture in three distinct, but physically connected panels or pieces. The Music Fellowship has recently begun releasing their take on the classical triptych: albums featuring equal-length contributions from three separate but complimentary artists. The first in the series, New Found Land, gathers together works of ambience, abstraction, and dream-pop from the likes of Yellow6, Rothko, and Landing.

The album opens with Yellow6’s “Marble #1”, a lush descent into Leicestershire guitarist Jon Atwood’s ambient twilight; a narcotic topography of swirling electric drone backwashes, percolated by a softly arpeggiated progression on acoustic guitar. “Quinta Essentia” follows, and over a looped beat suggesting the subdued hammers of across-the-lake carpenters, Atwood establishes a mood of intrigue and secret knowledge with his minimalist and haunting chord progressions. This is the stuff that top-secret test pilots should listen to as they glide their stealth aircraft quietly through the nighttime sky. Perhaps the most memorable of Atwood’s contributions is the sublime and extended beauty of his third track, “Silhouette”. The restrained and mysterious synthesizer melody, looped over a droning nebulae of distortion-tinged feedback, seems a mature and refined realization of X-Files. Tracks four and five maintain the otherworldly timbre, which, like the sweeping spectral lines of the aurora borealis pictured on the cover, imbue New Found Land with its overall tone of subtle marvel and languid intrigue.

The second “trip” comes from another UK-based project, Rothko. Originally a three-bass lineup, Rothko disbanded in 2001, but founder Mark Beazley carried on with the name, and like Yellow6, here he has digitally assembled his solo playing into multi-tracked, one-man polyphony. Titled “halftone and metatones – from 1 to 7”, Rothko’s seven tracks function together as a whole to reveal a complex, almost abstract-expressionist approach to the bass guitar. Ambient, drawn-out, and lushly distorted bass lines wash through track one of Rothko’s contribution, blanketing a soft and repetitious mantra of utterances that sound half machine, half woman. Contemplative, upper-register bass phrases delineate the loose and peripatetic nature of track two, while track three returns with whirlpools of washed-out fuzz reminiscent of the first piece. This counterpoint between effects-laden ambience and Beazley’s nomadic, a-melodic wanderings on the upper frets continues throughout the remaining four tracks, giving “halftones and metatones” a sort of exploratory feel. Beazley seems to be examining the fundamental building blocks of music – noise and form – and while the resultant “intellectual” aesthetic of his music is perhaps less accessible than that of the other two bands, Rothko’s contribution provides a necessary anchor to the ethereal and delicate complexions of Yellow6 and Landing – without this central section, which I often found to be the most rewarding upon repeated listening, I could picture the otherwise vaporous contributions of Yellow6 and Landing slowly sublimating into the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Connecticut-based Landing closes out the album with five lush pieces exemplary of their dreamy, astral space-pop. Their opening track, “Introduction to Clouds”, is a swirling interplay of buoyant, delay-shaded bass and guitar repetitions, delicate, helicoptering synthesizer, and Adrienne Snow’s breathy vocals. Landing’s every move is practiced and deliberate, and their approach is almost minimalist in places, but a careful mixture of reverb, delay, and other subtle aural effects imparts their work with a striking fullness and richness. Boy-girl vocals intertwine on “Disappear”, adding an almost indie-rock veneer to the piece, but true to the dictums of their brand of dream pop, nearly all of Adrienne and Aaron Snow’s lyrics are indiscernible, and their vocals respectfully fall in line with the rest of the instruments, adding additional layers of sonic complexity to their compositions. The space-rock trio Paik (fellow members of the Music Fellowship) claim inspiration from the industrial setting of their hometown Detroit, and I can’t help but think that Landing must take at least something from their adopted state of Connecticut. I remember plenty of wintertime drives on I-95 south, bisecting the state as I cruised amongst the glass and steel structures of downtown Hartford, insurance capitol of the world. It seemed that a gray sky was always precipitating a faint trickle of snow, and in my mind, these five songs by Landing have begun to supplant themselves as the reigning soundtrack to those (fond) memories.

New Found Land is a compilation of a different sort: rather than simply offering a catalogue of songs, the structure of this album allows each contributor to function in distinct relation to the others. While each artist offers strong and self-justified contributions of their own, they coalesce as a whole to create a complex and counterpointing assemblage. It is an enjoyable and multifaceted listen, and I look forward to the other releases from the Music Fellowship – I hope to soon assemble my own triptych of triptychs.

By Zachary Ambrose

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