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Land Observations: The Grand Tour

Former Appliance guy continues solo guitar quest.
Land Observations
The Grand Tour
Mute
2014-07-29

Land Observations is the solo project of James Brooks, formerly of the excellent and underrated group, Appliance. The Grand Tour is an album of hypnotic, precisely-rendered electric guitar pieces that are carefully constructed with clean, chiming, repetitive rhythms and layered, humming, notes. It follows the path of his 2012 release Roman Roads and retains structural traces of his earlier band.

Appliance’s stylish motorik post-rock seemed at times to be a series of scenes, shaped from a variety of cultural and scientific images, blurred by a sense of propulsion. The Grand Tour is considerably quieter but it, too, has a sense of movement. Opening track “On Leaving the Kingdom for the Well-Tempered Continent” twinkles like the cat’s-eyes on a pre-dawn journey to make the channel crossing out of England. Brooks conjures a suitably stately pace and elevated atmosphere for “From the Heights of the Simplon Pass” and picks up speed and urban crowded feel for the coast road and northern inland turn of “Nice to Turin”.

Since Appliance, Brooks gained a degree in fine art, and his work has been shown in various European galleries. The Grand Tour was once an actual geographical journey toward a broad aesthetic awakening only made by a privileged few. A pilgrimage for the financial elite. These days, economy travel, film, and digital networks allow most anyone to go virtually anywhere — at least superficially. Yet, Brooks’s imaginary version of the trek (he doesn’t actually visit the locations) is affecting, and had me looking up maps of the routes and places, daydreaming about travel, a feeling of saudade, the marvelous unreliability of fleeting impressions, sun on a rock, the specters of human history lurking unseen in broad daylight at ancient locations, someone unknown boarding a train…

RATING 7 / 10
PopMatters