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Lansing-Dreiden: The Incomplete Triangle

Richard T. Williams


The Incomplete Triangle

Label: Kemado
US Release Date: 2004-04-06
UK Release Date: Available as import

Lansing-Dreiden describe themselves as "a company that sees no distinction between art and commerce -- or anything else". While the description is a way for the Miami art collective to declare their intention to continue working in other media, it is also an excuse for them to focus on the awareness of their music as consumable product as much as artistic expression. This distinction isn't about justifying a tendency toward musical accessibility at the expense of artistic integrity, as the record makes no clear concession to the mainstream; instead, it defends the collective's equal amount of effort put forth into the non-musical ventures that surround the album's release, such as the annoying gimmickry of the mock-corporate press materials -- also featured on their website -- and the minimal design of the tri-fold Digipak (an "incomplete triangle" when held halfway open) that contains the disc.

More importantly, in preparing the release of their music as a commercial product, Lansing-Dreiden recognize that the record is lost between the era of album rock, where songs are sequenced into a contextual whole, and downloadable singles, where tracks can be easily separated from one another. As such, they present twelve self-penned and self-produced tracks of consistent strength and complexity, demonstrating both stylistic diversity and musical versatility, yet sacrificing overall coherence in the process. By then placing unprecedented emphasis on the sequencing of the record, Lansing-Dreiden manage to tie the twelve songs into three sections, or "sides", of four songs each, which loosely correspond to the themes of warwork, rest, and celebration, according to the corporate manifesto. Though each section is distinctive, the four tracks that comprise each one are ordered to soften the transitions into the others, thus starting and ending on the extremes. As the sounds gradually progress from heavy, harmonic garage rock, to effects-laden shoegaze and dream pop, and finally to cluttered late-'80s dance music, an illusion of coherence is created, a brilliant attempt to obscure the fact that, despite respectable efforts in all directions, Lansing-Dreiden never quite forge a sound to call their own.

Instead, the record plays like a best-of collection of a great, lost British indie band, not far removed from the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, or the Stone Roses. It effectively distills the development of an entire career trajectory onto one record, as if the members of Lansing-Dreiden sat down and designed a fictional five-album history and discography from which to cull the hits. The collection kicks off with the three reverb-drenched rock numbers that initially turned the band into overnight critical darlings and underground legends, circa 1985. The lone superior standout from the difficult second album follows ("The Advancing Flags"), Lansing-Dreiden's best synthesis of their divergent styles and, appropriately, an apex in the structure of the album. The best-of document proceeds through a dirge and three trippy space lullabies from their 1988 major-label debut, one of which is eerily similar to Vangelis's theme from Chariots of Fire ("An Effect of the Night"). In 1989, the band experienced their last commercial hurrah, the same territory mined by New Order, represented here by the funky, bass-driven "Glass Corridor" -- the second apex -- and the dumb "I.C.U.". Finally, two minor hits are featured from their dodgy last record, after the founding guitarist left the band in early 1992 and the remaining members abandoned their last traces of psychedelic rock in a misguided attempt to stay current with machine-driven dance pop.

In actuality, The Incomplete Triangle is Lansing-Dreiden's debut record, immaculately produced with layers of detail and sonic grandeur, showcasing a rich, emotive vocalist and innumerable guitar textures, while at times achieving a swirling, drug-addled haze that few psychedelic bands have truly mastered. Unfortunately, its sexiness does not mask its void of fresh ideas, nor does the band's pretension and reliance on artifice. One question raised in the corporate profile is, "Would you consider yourselves rather like a harvester of truths and goods sown by others before you?" The answer, only thinly veiled by the fact that they consider themselves manufacturers as well: "� We quite prefer to never consider our 'selves' altogether". Perhaps a little more self-consideration for Lansing-Dreiden will raise their next record from a found-art footnote in their corporation's legacy to a major artistic statement of an intriguing new band.

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