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Githead

Landing

(Swim; US: 10 Nov 2009; UK: 9 Nov 2009)

Githead’s third full-length album, Landing, features the sort of music you rock out to if you don’t want to move your feet (and are not inclined to headbanging).  Githead’s Krautrock-influenced grooves pound and pulse, but they are as stationary as a treadmill, perfect if you don’t want to ruin your hipster ensemble while bobbing your head back and forth near the foot of the stage.  There are lots of underground rock bands these days that trade in this sort of sound, focusing on hypnotic repetition as a vehicle for rocking out in lieu of bread-and-butter riffs or exaggerated dynamics.  Few of them pull it off—often what you actually get is tuneless chord sequences beefed up through effects pedals to hide the insubstantiality of the songs—but Githead does.


Githead is sort of an avant-rock supergroup, comprised of Colin Newman (of punk/post-punk legends Wire), his wife Malka Spigel, her Minimal Compact bandmate Max Franken, and Robin Rimbaud a.k.a. electronic musician Scanner (who forsakes computers for a guitar in this project).  But make no mistake: this is no art-house production.  From the opening instrumental “Faster”, Githead get on with it, with no extra fuss.


From the get-go, Githead has its collective noggin down and aimed forward, intent on barreling headfirst through its songs via motorik rhythms and wind tunnel-tested song structures.  “Driving” is the perfect descriptor for this music: the glass-sharp guitars, the pulsing eighth-note basslines, and the rollicking drums (often straightforward, occasionally skittering for extra flavor) all combine into a monolithic groove that conveys the feeling of continuous motion.  The lyrics are repetitious, clipped phrases delivered in effects-drenched vocals, be it Newman’s heavily accented recitation of “Lack of discretion / Lack of taste / Lack of judgment / Lack of space” in “Over the Limit”, or Spigel’s airy “Waking mornings cold and grey / City’s empty, city’s still” in “From My Perspective”.  It’s perfect mood music for aimless drives in the nighttime countryside—or for those times you wish you could leave any place you were in a straight, uninterrupted line.


On an individual basis, the songs are solid.  However, Landing doesn’t quite work on a larger scale.  The overall effect of Githead’s sound is captivating, but frustrating in the long-run.  The album is almost single-minded in its momentum; each song sounds like it’s headed towards the next, and onwards.  It’s the same head-down, through-the-thicket sensation throughout, without any proper release.  The album never unclenches until the final track, the nearly eight-minute-long “Transmission Tower”. That song’s open spaces and disembodied feeling are a welcome contrast to everything before it (particularly how the rhythm section is perfectly content to drop out for long sections), but nonetheless it feels more like an interesting detour than a proper final destination.  By the end of the album you can’t help but feel this all should have been going somewhere.


None of that should dissuade you from checking out Landing, though.  On this album, Githead perform with a skill and command for instrumental interplay lesser bands would do best to learn from.  Although one-dimensional as a whole, the album’s songs are best taken as separate pieces, where Githead’s craftsmanship can be appreciated in more appropriately-portioned contexts.  So be prepared to hit the shuffle button after you add Landing to your music playlist.  But for those times you need a soundtrack for going nowhere in particular, Landing in its entirely will do the job.

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