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Landing - Seasons

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Artist: Landing

Album: Seasons

Label: Ba Da Bing

Review date: May. 21, 2002

Inauspicious as the teeming league of ambient psychedelica may seem to a more noise-oriented audience, there exists a fairly wide spectrum of possibilities proceeding from the genre, in which introspection may be the only consistent criterion. In the case of Landing, much of this shimmering cache of esoterica has found repose in a single outfit. Throughout its succinct, but nonetheless prolific, trajectory, Landing has spanned everything from clean British shoegaze to space rock and bedroom slo-core, albeit with more nods to their own technical aptitude than any preexisting musical reference point. As with any snowballing antiquarian, however, the results are mixed, and the material often more lovely than necessarily adept.

Their third proper release, Seasons, continues the quartet’s deliberate shift to a greater focus on songwriting and lyricism, and a subsequent movement away from their trademark fixation on the lullaby opus. Miraculously, Landing makes the transition to wistful pop without dispensing with any of the grandeur and magnitude of their large-scale compositions: bells, whistles, and the occasional cheese space-synth remain intact. But for all its underlying beauty, the album can’t help but make one nervous, as if the anxious concision that fetters the band in a pop framework were communicated to the listener. In the context of their previous material, Seasons is an afterthought in the gradual unfolding of strange musical sea legs, as experimentation, cloaked in convention, collapses on itself.

Traveling with Windy & Carl must be, both aesthetically and metabolically, a beneficial experience, as evidenced by the tour split that Landing brought out with the duo last summer. Ironically, the actual Windy & Carl contribution was a somewhat dispensable exercise in extended guitar drone, while the three Landing tracks inherited the subtlety in emotional expression and transition of their elder statesmen. The recordings were a marked departure from the dense material on 2001’s Oceanless, a collection of northern pastorals too beautiful to be atmospheric, and yet too redundant to achieve ambiance: no more should the sun hang static on the horizon for an hour than a single lilting guitar chord be reiterated for 20 minutes, at least when no claim can be made to trance-induction or chord progression. If anything, Oceanless was slightly askew of brilliant, and portrayed a band at a type of developmental crossroads. And while Seasons carries the progression of Landing’s songwriting to an extreme made logical by their tour split accomplishments, it’s possible that songwriting itself was the wrong course to follow, and at least not the direction made promising by their earlier recordings.

I stress that this is by no means a poor effort, although it seems that Seasons would be a more appropriate release had Slowdive brought it out in the early 90s, or had it appeared on Chairkickers Union. The eight songs on the album are as well conceived as those preceding them, and even attain to a certain quiet splendor. The pop structure, however, is unnecessarily restrictive and unforgiving to a band like Landing. Furthermore, the decision to incorporate vocals is itself rather misguided. Nominally a concept album, Seasons fails to shed new light on the natural cycle, and my appreciation of weather, even as a metaphorical capacity, gains little from the blunted exegetical scalpel of lines like “rain comes falling down,” and “it’s so cold.” Uninspiring to the sober-minded, likely those it was most intended to captivate, Landing’s vocal debut functions only to obscure the band’s obvious talents in instrumental composition.

Closing out the record, “Blue Sky Away” is endemic of the best of Seasons, and sublime pop in general, merging synths, soft chords, and dexterous brushwork in a concise, gently padded manner, and yet “Ruins of the Morning” is more representative of the disc as a whole, courting confusion at the expense of simplistic expression. I would prefer to see a band develop and refine a craft than merely hopscotch within subdivisions of a given genre. Seasons reflects a certain articulate literacy that was the only missing element in previous Landing recordings, while here the innovation is obscured by the downfalls of a musical context not yet accommodating to the band. There are two many good concepts at work to make Landing anything other than potentially brilliant in nocturnal ambiance, only their greatest potential lies in broader fields and color spectrums than those in place here.

By Tom Roberts

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