Tuesday, December 18, 2012
WRAPPING UP 2012 with Land Observations
In Summer 2011, I became entranced by the “Roman Roads” EP from Land Observations, a trio of minimal motorik instrumentals created out of layered guitar. Although it was hinted this was from a forthcoming album inspired by the major Roman roads that criss-crossed Britain & Europe, I didn’t hold out much hope as Land Observations aka James Brooks, previously one-third of post-rock minimalists Appliance, had concentrated on an artistic career since the dissolution of his previous group in 2003. And nine years on his visual arts practice and interest in cartography and mapping seemed to dominate.
But then in September came the release of the eight track album “Roman Roads IV-XI” on Mute, his old label with Appliance. What I said about the EP in July 2011 still holds true for the album: “although there is repetition to their meticulous construction, rather than those sturdy (and perpendicular) feats of Roman engineering, these songs make me think more of the natural world in those times, of green fields, chalk horses, untamed hedgerows and empty skies: more pagan joy than imperialist perfection”. And this was echoed by The Quietus: “recorded in Berlin, the eight tracks here pay easy homage to their European forebears, but are unmistakably British in their overall sound and feel, nodding melodically to the traditional folk music of these isles, and existing at a slower pace, on a smaller scale, than the cross-continental constructions of Kraftwerk and company”. The EP is excellent but “Roman Roads IV-XI” goes further and not just in length – a more confident and complete investigation of these themes, musical and geographic.
Continuing the Wrapping Up series, Land Observations’ James Brooks casts a glance back on 2012:
What I will remember most about 2012 is...
Well, in musical terms I enjoyed the continuing renaissance of vinyl.... Along with another year cementing the fact that interesting music can still cut through and have an impact... In life - East London flourished and Fender brought out a new Jaguar guitar.
What should be forgotten about 2012...
Musically.... mmm, it feels negative to mention names... In everyday life, that the government and universities made some terrible decisions for education, (or maybe that would be a bad idea to forget)
The best gig I played was...
I think in Kreuzberg, Berlin for the enthusiasm and attention towards the performance. The album tracks are getting broader and it all seemed to grow at this show...
The best gig I saw was...
I enjoyed seeing the Matthew Bourne in Glasgow. Some days you are more receptive to watching a performance after you play and that was one.
A record from 2012 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
(Obviously taking Land Observations out of the equation...) I enjoyed the Lightships record in a 70s album kind of way.
Overlooked in 2012?
The Kranky record label in Chicago, stills seems consistent, but perhaps doesn't get the attention it deserves.
And what can we look forward to in 2013 from Land Observations?
Well, I've started demoing the next record already and plan to record it in a very unique place... So it would be nice to think I could have that out by late next year on Mute.
Plus there are some extra tracks from last year's Berlin recording session, so it would be great for them to see the light of day. Then Enraptured are re-issuing the 3 track “Roman Roads” EP. So, all in all, it should be a fruitful year...
For more from James Brooks including how Land Observations became a musical project and his subsequent return to Mute Records, there’s an excellent interview on The Quietus from September. My main recommendation however is a swift purchase of “Roman Roads IV-XI”.