Landing: Sphere

Chris Toenes



Label: K
US Release Date: 2004-09-07
UK Release Date: Available as import

Ten years ago, if one heard the term shoegazer, it evoked images of bands lost in the moment of their music (and pondering their own footwear). After the originals like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, a second tier of bands started allowing their pop-based melodies to hover leisurely before finally coming to rest. Connecticut-based outfit Landing embody this aesthetic, directly channeling the gauzy guitar sound of the period's champions, but taking a left turn at Dearborn, Michigan, and the fluid drone mantras of that town's Windy and Carl. Landing meditate on the repetition of these guitar swells and drones, burying the melody until it is often all but non-existent. By drawing this line in the sand between them and their forebears, Landing sets up their melodic songs to stand out, with harmonies and vocal incantations woven into their music's fabric. Their story is of modern psychedelic music fans that started making music themselves, in a direct emulation of their heroes.

When Aaron and Adrienne Snow saw some of the innovators and new breed of psychedelic rock at the Terrastock music festival in 1997, they firmly decided they would take this path themselves. Since those early days, their music with collaborators Dick Baldwin and Daron Gardner has evolved in predominantly instrumental strokes, their harmonies and Utah background drawing comparisons to minimalists Low. With Sphere, Landing takes very successful stabs at pop songs, albeit songs wrapped in a fuzzy blanket of guitar harmonics, e-bows and sustained effects. "Fluency of Colors" starts the record with such blissful pop hooks; it appears the group might be taking this course for the entire album. But in three movements, "Gravitational" shows their devotion to gradual, progressive frequency jamming, working to a slow build and denouement not unlike the original Krautrock ancestors.

This is where Landing differs from the meandering noodles of many of their tripped-out peers; they retain a structure and focus that keeps their music in the rock realm, without going over the brink into unorganized sound. Working with Vessyl collective co-conspirators like Yume Bitsu, Version and Surface of Eceyon allows the members of Landing to try various strains and extremes of this exploratory music, while following the traditions of progressive head-music like young samurais pursuing higher knowledge. Sphere is the group's third album, propelling them further in their outer-space forays, but making room for memorable pop asides. Landing provides a pleasant, even soothing, sideline to the aggressive stratospheric rocket-trips of other modern psych outfits, while still dwelling in their same mind-expanding territory. While others go for outer extremes, Landing stays settled in a meditative state, comfortable in their world of chiming strings and delicately repeated phrases. They gaze upward, trying to see some epiphany in the sun with their eyes closed, without staring at those shoelaces.

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