Tag Archives: Appliance

Review: The Grand Tour – Land Observations

LO.DD.AW.inddI’ve written about Land Observations before, and with good reason (read here). Land Observations is a project started by James Brooks, who was an important creative part of the band, Appliance. In 2011, Brooks released a sampler experimental EP that gains your ear immediately with its repetitive minimal guitar pieces, augmented by an interesting thread of a musical filament. The song will run its length with the repeating core, but fill in with a haunting flow of more intricate guitar pieces that are themselves minimally repetitive. The results are extraordinary, and long-lasting.

With Land Observations’ second full-length album, The Grand Tour, Brooks takes his guitar experimentation to another place. And while the music is now warmly familiar because of his excellent Roman Roads IV-XI, itself a full-length continuation of the ideas musically put forth on the three-track EP, Roman Roads, the tracks on The Grand Tour take on a deeper resonance. What that reveals is that Brooks is feeling comfortable with his adopted style. For the fan of Land Observations, that means a wealth of good things.

The music on The Grand Tour have a basis in the once popular rite of passage undertaken by wealthy graduates of Europe, who chose to drink in the culture and arts of the time. The Grand Tour was a 200-year tradition evident between the 17th and 19th centuries. To capture this haze of a tradition, with perhaps many of the ghostly participants nearby, The Grand Tour (the album) was recorded at the edge of the Bavarian Alps for the inspiration the album needed. Using a single six-string guitar to create the nuances of beautiful melodies found on the album, Brooks has, once again, realized the brilliance of sound that the guitar is capable of in the right hands. And in Brooks’ hands, The Grand Tour becomes an otherworldly dream walk into the period when the tradition was an important one.

The eight tracks on this album have the same entrancing qualities found in the previous Land Observations recordings. I’m already anxiously awaiting any new music from the mind of James Brooks. Also, there is way more going on within the whole of The Grand Tour than its repetition and minimalism might suggest. Way more!

[Note to Mr Brooks: I LOVE how “Return To Ravenna” ended. Rather than a drop off, fade out, it changed note, then just ended. Perfect!]

Release Date: July 28 (UK), July 29 (US), 2014
Label: Mute Records
Availability: CD, DD, LP   

–Matt Rowe

Discoveries: Land Observations To Release New Album, The Grand Tour, In Late July

LO.DD.AW.inddEver listen to something only to have it seep so deep that it resurfaces in your dreams? Yes, this happened to me. In my constant travels looking for music to hear, I came upon a band by the name of Land Observations, and complete listens to all available music has entranced me enough to listen through their releases several times. The music produced contain no vocals. It is all music. Minimal at that. But the ambient flavors were addictive. And so, here I am.

Land Observations is the project of James Brooks, who is an integral part of the UK band, Appliance. To make this a bit of knowledge for you, Appliance is a vocal three piece band signed to one of my favorite labels, Mute Records. They have four excellent, Mute -issued albums that include Are You Earthed? from 2003 (their last). Their structure is minimalism. The albums from Appliance are experimental, certainly not for everyone, although it is safe to say that the audience for Appliance would be wider than Land Observations.

In 2011, Brooks’ latest band, Land Observations, released a three-track exploratory EP, Roman Roads. The three instrumental tracks found on Roman Roads possessed a haunting element to them, uneasy to shake. By the following year, Land Observations followed up the introductory EP with a brilliant eight song album. The album, known as Roman Roads IV-XI (the numbering referring to the number of songs carrying over from the EP’s three songs). is a stunning collection of musical pieces that seem to carry far deeper than the casual listen. There is a feel of Velvet Underground in them, especially in comparison to “Heroin”, with its repetitive but simple heartbeat guitar pluck that begins the popular VU track. It is “Via Flaminia” that wove its way into my subconscious, swimming to the surface within my dream. In fact, it was the most important part of the dream that I focused on as my mind began to reattach to reality.

It is with great pleasure that I find that on July 28 (UK), July 29 (US), Mute Records will release The Grand Tour from Land Observations. What will make The Grand Tour more interesting is its recorded content. Created on a single 6-string guitar, and recorded at the edge of the Bavarian Alps, this album revisits the historic Grand Tour of the 17th through 19th century. The Grand Tour was a rite of passage, a tradition for wealthy University graduates who took the time to explore the arts and cultures of the continent. The songs on The Grand Tour reflect an imaginary passage between Western, Central, and Southern Europe. And if it even has a fraction of the qualities of both Roman Roads issues, it will be a beautiful album.