There has always been a blind spot somewhere between, for instance, Stockhausen’s Sonntag aus Licht and, say, Julianna Barwick’s The Magic Place and a part of me (the most daring one, I might say) wanted to see that gap closed. In the second scene of the German composer’s posthumous masterpiece, seven groups of angels grace the stage. In the American vocalist’s brilliant work, the most organic and concrete element of all – her voice – is a pure attribute suspended in the ether. The human voice can be used in so many ways that, to this day, we have probably only explored a fraction of its enormous range of possibilities. Jodie Landau and the LA-based ensemble wild Up (sic), probably unwittingly, attempt to create a landscape that manages to remain mid-air, partly terrestrial canons (the jazz, the discipline of contemporary classical music) and the ghostly shapes of inspiration.
You of All Things is probably not the most consistent album you will hear this year. So many influences, digressions and citations beautify – quite literally – a glad assortment of detours and excursuses, but what really matters is the fact that the final product retains a certain degree of purity. Like a precious metal, You of All Things is quintessentially elementary and easily discernible and measurable. The support his voice receives from female choir Graduale Nobili (an interesting product of Iceland, where this album was recorded, which would probably deserve a review all for itself) is so tense that one ends up wondering who is accompanying who. And, yes, this has to be considered a compliment, such is the musical bravura (listen to “This – I”, for instance) the two elements manage to achieve while elegantly battling with strings somehow reminiscent of Steve Reich’s Different Trains, with Olivier Messiaen’s Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, where the simple fact that there are no human voices does not mean there are no vocals.
The greatness of You of All Things is that it re-elaborates without overturning or, worse, overdoing. “Control” is key, here. Landau’s authority in administering influences, while retaining total command of his voice, almost counting the times his chords resonate in the shortest frame of time. And this, believe it or not, is a rare quality in today’s musical landscape. Jodie Landau has put together a record that is so quintessentially comprehensive that even on a piece like “Orlando & Tiresias”, for instance, Ellen Reid’s heavily contemporary touch took appears to morph into Estonian composer Veljo Tormis’s masterpiece Unustatud Rahvad (Forgotten Peoples) probably (surely) without realizing it.
Speaking of contemporaneity, the last three pieces (all written by Landau) offer a glimpse of where this young composer could head next; if his trespassing into an ethereal form of pop is more than a simple divertissement, the likes of Antony & The Johnsons should seriously start considering this American a more than valid alternative to their delicate, sublime and ghostly inspiration. Seriously, then, Jodie Landau has something to say and he knows – oh yes he does – how to express his heartfelt, still bewildered feelings.