Landing (Geographic North)
Posted In: Aaron and Adrienne Snow, Geographic North, Landing, Landing - Landing, Steve Dewhurst
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Six years on from their Gravitational IV album, Connecticut’s Landing return with a new record for Geographic North. Based around the married duo of Aaron and Adrienne Snow, Landing have clear precedents in the shape of slowcore, shoegaze and dream-pop bands like Slowdive, Galaxie 500 and Low, but they’ve managed to emerge as one of the foremost exponents of the sound. Landing is their eighth full length and, while it doesn’t deviate too far from the established template of ethereal vocals shrouded in swathes of guitar feedback, it keeps things relatively short in such a way as to make every one of these nine tracks a powerful, self-contained entity in its own right. More then ever, especially on songs like ‘Finally’ and the motorik single ‘Heart Finds The Beat’, Joy Division echo through the mist as a primary inspiration. The way the bass flashes around the stripped-back drums and the synths provide a cushion of sublime elevation brings to mind Closer’s more progressive moments. There’s even a song titled ‘Decades’.
Having blossomed out of lengthy, ambient soundscapes on earlier releases, Landing now concentrate on far more pop-friendly mini-epics. Although the songs are largely formless in a traditional sense, favouring the creation of a seeping cloud around the listener’s mind as opposed to a more direct punch to the heart, there’s enough weight in the vocals to make this one of the first Landing albums with clearly decipherable lyrical content across the board. Only the appearance of Adrienne Snow’s voice – which is entirely her own, happily avoiding any lazy comparison with Elizabeth Fraser or Bilinda Butcher – moves the music into more obvious dream pop territory and even then there’s a skipping drum beat to help give it definition. In fact, although the band’s name has always beautifully summed up their sound (always skimming somewhere just above the earth, never making contact), this might as close to the ground as they’ve ever been.
Landing, in fact, is a difficult album to pin down, and this works entirely to the band’s credit. Quite often these albums have a tendency to blend into one long, gaseous drone but Landing magpie from myriad sources to ensure the journey is an ever-changing and thrillingly propulsive one. The first half is particularly striking, containing one of the singles of the year so far in ‘Heart Finds The Beat’, the downbeat but heart-swelling ‘Crows’ and ‘Like The Tide’, a multi-faceted track that stuffs an album’s worth of influences into its four and a half minutes. Opening as a Krautrock melange of drums and electronics it becomes steadily less certain as it goes, eventually slinking into a jagged, tremolo-cushioned ode to the the freedom of the past. ‘I’d like to see you again,’ sings Aaron Snow, ‘I’d like to feel that way again’.
The album does struggle to live up to its glorious opening movement as it draws to a close, but then most albums would. ‘Migration’, the longest piece of music here, provides a reminder of the way in which the band used to operate. Heady, dream-like and undoubtedly pretty, it nevertheless seems slightly out of place on an album that’s makes some refreshingly bold moves in an arena that can get seriously stuffy. It’s possible it was included to keep the die-hards happy but, as the closing ‘Native Land’ testifies, Landing are more than comfortable riding their new found wave of jubilation. Not unlike an extended Yo La Tengo jam (think ‘We’re An American Band’), ‘Native Land’ asks questions that may just as well be focused inwards. ‘Did they fix you where you began?’ swoons Adrienne Snow. On this evidence, Landing are anything but fixed. In fact, they might just be taking off again.
- Steve Dewhurst for Fluid Radio