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Land Observations
The Grand Tour (2014)

 Land Observations — The Grand Tour (July 28, 2014)

USA Flag    Land Observations — The Grand Tour 
ι°°ι   Former Appliance frontman James Brooks takes inspiration from Roman roads and minimalist music in his Land Observations project.
ι°°ι   Myšlenka The Grand Tour vyvolává obrazy Byrona a jeho vrstevníků, pití ve Vídni a plavby v Benátkách. Seznámení s Brooksem neznamená hýření, ani neukázněný karneval, žádné opilé stupidity. Ukazuje kamenné silnice, rozlehlé krajiny, kovový pach horského vzduchu na jazyku. Tour je čistá kontemplace a neúnavný impuls. Je to produkt jakoby zpaměti, můžete obsedantně studovat obrysy mapy a vidět každou vrstevnici tak výrazně, jako vrásky na tváři. Jeho vyprávění je krásné..., je to historie, putování. Novodobý Bo Hansson. Seznámení je téměř kající se, je to zápal, ale stále elegantně decentní. Jedná se o zvukový ekvivalent Bauhaus designu. Album může evokovat specifickou atmosféru, nebo stav mysli. Celé album je hráno téměř výhradně na kytaru. Brooks postupně staví vrstvy textury, motiv plyne po motivu, všechno uvnitř se zde pohybuje jako dobře promazaný stroj. Nic není statické, nic nezní cize. Vše je perfektně funkční, perfektně vyvážené. Zní to jako Longital na albu “Výprava/Voyage”. Pro gurmány.
Styles: Experimental Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Location: London, Bavarian Alps, Brooklyn, NYC
Album release: July 28, 2014
Record Label: Mute
Duration:     40:34
Tracks:
01 On Leaving the Kingdom for the Well-Tempered Continent     5:00 
02 Flatlands & the Flemish Roads     5:45 
03 From the Heights of the Simplon Pass     4:46 
04 Nice to Turin     4:40 
05 Ode to Viennese Streets     5:16 
06 The Brenner Pass     4:45 
07 Walking the Warm Colonnades     4:30 
08 Return to Ravenna     5:52
Credits:
ι°°ι   Mark Bihler Engineer, Mixing
ι°°ι   James Brooks Arranger, Booklet, Composer, Concept, Cover Art, Drawing, Engineer, Mixing
ι°°ι   Jesse Holborn Design
ι°°ι   Bo Kondren Mastering
Themes: Introspection Long Walk Meditation Reflection Relaxation
Album Moods: Atmospheric Cerebral Complex Detached Hypnotic Literate Nocturnal Quirky
Similar albums: Jonas Reinhardt — Jonas Reinhardt; Tussle — Kling Klang; Björk — Voltaic.
REVIEW
BY KATE TRAVERS, 23 JULY 2014, 11:30 BST, SCORE: 8.5/10
ι°°ι   Do the terms ‘sound-art’ and ‘concept album’ make you wince? That might be about to change. If anyone has the power to allay any fear or suspicion surrounding these forms of audio artistry, it’s Land Observations.
ι°°ι   The Grand Tour is the second LP from Land Observations, the current moniker of artist and musician James Brooks. The previous album, Roman Roads IV — XI, centres around — guess what ? — the history and geography of Roman Roads. This sounds like a dry topic, and it would be, if Brooks wasn’t capable of reanimating an ancient landscape and imbuing it with life, simply by strumming his six-string. His most recent sonic ramblings through time and space have transported him forward several hundred years to the 18th century, the era of the Grand Tour: a ritual undertaken by wealthy young men, which involved travelling around Europe in order to get a bit of culture in them before returning to breed, manage estates and act like sensible, grown-up men-in-tights. It was like inter-railing for the landed aristocracy.
ι°°ι   Each of the eight tracks on the album is named after a different point on an imaginary Tour itinerary: “Flatlands And The Flemish Roads”, “Nice to Turin”, “Ode to Viennese Streets”. Land Observations is a project which focuses on sparse instrumentation and minimalist simplicity. The entire album is played almost exclusively on guitar. Brooks builds layers of texture, accruing motif after motif, slotting them together like cogs inside a well-oiled machine. Nothing extraneous. Everything is perfectly functional, perfectly balanced.
ι°°ι   Every piece on the album acts, not so much as a descriptor of the place it is associated with, but rather as a means of obliquely evoking a specific atmosphere or state of mind. There is no musical pastiche to be found here; even when recalling the waltzes of Vienna, the um-pah-pah bass line which immediately triggers memories of Germanic folk music (or, perhaps, of the musical Oliver) is taken out of its waltz-time context and re-situated among languorous strings.
ι°°ι   The idea of The Grand Tour conjures images of Byron and his peers, drinking in Vienna and cavorting in Venice. Brooks’ Grand Tour has no debauchery, no riotous carnival, no drunken stupors. It has straight roads, wide-open landscapes, the metallic tang of air mountain air on the tongue. Brook’s Tour is pure contemplation and relentless momentum. it is the product of a mind that can obsessively study the contours of a map and see each line as distinctively as wrinkle on a face; telling and beautiful, a palimpsest of history. The Grand Tour is almost penitential in it’s fervour, but remains elegantly understated. It is the sonic equivalent of Bauhuas design.
If your faith in the concept album is failing, The Grand Tour will restore it. And if you have any long, trans-national train journeys coming up, this album will be great for those, too. Fortaken: http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/
Artist Biography by Heather Phares
ι°°ι   Land Observations is the project of James Brooks, formerly of the post-rock band Appliance. During the group's hiatus the mid-2000s, Brooks spent more time on his visual art, showing his work at galleries in the U.K., North America, and Europe, and also continued working on music on his own. Inspired by the ancient Roman roads that pass by his apartment, he began working on pieces that looped and layered his guitar work into something intricate yet minimalist, evoking the works of Kraftwerk, Cluster, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, and Acid Mothers Temple's Makoto Kawabata, as well as more pop-oriented artists such as the Cure and the Durutti Column. Brooks' first Land Observations work was 2011's Roman Roads EP, which was released by Enraptured Records in a limited edition of 500. Soon after, Land Observations signed to Mute Records (also home to Appliance), and the project's full-length debut was released in September 2012.
REVIEW
By Adrian, July 18, 2014
ι°°ι   James Brooks’ first album as Land Observations – 2012’s Roman Roads IV — XI — was a quiet revelation with its inventive melding of minimalism and psychogeography.  In approaching this sequel, Brooks has more challenges and expectations to meet in retaining the balmy intimacy of his layered solo electric guitar soundscapes whilst moving the one-man project forwards.  Although The Grand Tour may initially appear to be missing the same spine-tingling impact of its sublime predecessor it does reveal itself, after some concentrated airing, as a low-key pleasure in its own right.
ι°°ι   Swapping the inspiration of Roman highways for the historical European rites of passage road trip also known as the The Grand Tour, this second Land Observations LP — written in London and recorded in a friend’s home studio overlooking the Bavarian Alps — is again driven by tacit themes of travel, history and geography.  Conceptualism aside, Brooks once more adheres to his self-restricting one electric guitar set-up in tandem with bending and thickening his sound meticulously.  Many of the same musical influences are still identifiable — with the likes of Neu!, Spacemen 3, The Durutti Column, Brokeback and Young Marble Giants remaining touchstones — but there is also a greater self-defined Land Observations vision solidifying throughout the record.
ι°°ι   Hence, for the opening “On Leaving The Kingdom For The Well-Tempered Continent” the motorik throb of Roman Roads is revisited alongside eerie treated guitar gradations and subterranean low-end tones coming into the mix.  For the ensuing “Flatlands And The Flemish Roads” the meshes of bass-like throbbing are even more pronounced whilst the top-end adds synth-imitating layers before bleeding into the somnolent early-Spiritualized-indebted “From The Heights Of The Simplon Pass.”  By the mid-point of  “Nice To Turin” the pace picks up a tad as more open and loose guitar lines run in parallel with tighter rhythmic beds, ahead of decelerating into the plucked and lengthened shapes of  “Ode To Viennese Streets.”  With “The Brenner Pass” the Germanic grooves reoccur prior to “Walking The Warm Colonnades” exploring slow-motion early-Tortoise-meets-Brian Eno atmospherics.  On reaching the mid-tempo final destination point of “Return To Ravenna” Brooks draws together many of album’s recurring motifs — as well as adding some drone-shaped counterpoints — to signpost you right back to the beginning of The Grand Tour, to close its hypnotic self-contained sonic loop.
ι°°ι   Ultimately, trying to properly dissect and describe a record that digs deep whilst remaining rooted in the same spot is close to impossible.  Yet, it’s hard not wanting to unpick the elusive ingenuity of The Grand Tour, to seek out what makes it tick so intricately and warmly.  Putting analytical angst aside though, in short this is another tranquil and refreshing oasis on the compelling Land Observations journey.
Fortaken: http://www.adequacy.net/
Website: http://landobservations.com/music/
ι°°ι   Influenced as much by Tom Verlaine, or Takoma guitarists, as Steve Reich and Kosmische groups, Roman Roads sees Brooks exploring the power of minimalism to create warm, evocative atmospherics. The Battle Of Watling Street plucks of guitar appear over a haze, as of a summer’s day, longer drones like leaves revealing their many greens in the warm breeze. Appian Way is a day dream of a Roman Legion marching in time to the beat of Neu!’s Klaus Dinger. Although Brooks spent considerable time researching Roman Roads, this isn’t just an historical project, or an attempt to look only into the past. Instead, there is an obvious fascination with Roman Roads as man made structures, with their bold lines carving through the landscape, creating an album that’s a reflection on the broader ideas of travel, momentum and progress.
ι°°ι   As Brooks himself says, “it’s more a case of being in the here and now and allowing yourself to be open to the ghosts of the past. I do want it to seem like a contemporary record that tries to ask questions.”
ι°°ι   You can hear this in Before the Kingsland Road, where a pulse like pylons flitting past the windows of a high speed train sits beneath a simple, doubting guitar motif. These sensations of travel, and the meditative, reflective state that can inspire are key: “That notion of momentum but also the poetry of it, if you have a certain kind of mindset you can’t help but be swept up in the evocative quality of it. I want to try and grapple with that in some way, the melancholic introspection that travel has.”
ι°°ι   After Roman Roads, Brooks suggests that there may be other destinations on the way for Land Observations. Until then, though, it’s up to us to continue his journey and take Roman Roads where we will, each listener drawing their own impression of the landscape around as they listen. “I’ve really enjoyed writing these pieces of music that attempt to deal with the road, but of course they can only really be fragments and that’s fine, that’s how it has to be with music,” he says. “I don’t want it to be completist and say this is where it starts and this is where it ends.”
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Land Observations
The Grand Tour (2014)

 

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