L A N D L A N DNight Within
Matthew Waters and Daniel Lea, the two members of the mysterious duo L A N D, say that their thing (which is a mixture of music, graphic design, and video art) is “the search for an apocalyptic noir narrative”. This statement might sound pretentious, especially because in their confusing introduction, they talk about Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver” and the detectives that so fascinated Paul Auster in his early books, but in a way it makes sense once their debut LP starts to play. As the title, “Night Within”, suggests, this is an immersion into music associated with the night: the album is equally comfortable with jazz with a classic aftertaste, suitable for smoke-filled bars and loose women, and with the type of nebulous post-rock made by Bark Psychosis in the early 90s. It just as soon allows itself to get tangled up in a dark ambient sound with dense textures, as it refers unfazed back to Tindersticks and Portishead or goes for a shamelessly cinematographic aesthetic (and if you’re thinking of David Lynch, you should know that you are on exactly the right track).
In this context, David Sylvian’s presence on the album isn’t surprising: his weighty tone of voice is enough to make “Nothing Is Happening Everywhere” - a Tower of Babel of trumpets and clarinets erected on a drum played with drum brushes, a double bass that is felt rather than heard and ominous curtains of noise - into a perfect homage to the final years of Talk Talk. Collaborations with old acquaintances on the English jazz scene are no surprise either: fellows like Tom Farmer, Luke Garwood, Paul Cook and the deceased Richard Turner, which help to give body to the more serious numbers ( “Stillman”, “Cosmopolis”). Nor is the presence of minor heroes of experimental rock, of the calibre of Daniel O'Sullivan (Æthenor, Guapo, Mothlite) and Alexander Tucker, whose influence can be sensed behind the subtle special effects contained in pieces like “Hotel Room” and “Cold Desire”. What is surprising, in reality, is that those responsible for such an exquisite orchestra (two Londoners who are apparently unknown, in spite of their busy calendars) don’t approach instruments at any time: they limit themselves to directing and giving orders to their illustrious guests. A role that the last of the guests even helps out with: Ben Frost is responsible for the mixes and “sculpting the sound”.
As is inevitable with Frost involved, “Night Within” has a rough, frayed surface: when you listen to them separately, the instruments sound powerful, almost violent (or directly violent and tense, like in “Into The Blue”), but the feeling of the whole is blurry, tremendously expressionistic, so much so that at times it almost seems like a musical version of a Jasper Johns painting. It is precisely here, in the ability to shape sounds that seem to always be on the verge of collision, in the alchemical ability to insert silences into the very heart of songs, in that physical way that the sound spreads throughout the room (I hadn’t mentioned this before, but this music sounds much better listened to at high volume) - it is in these details that “Night Within” raises itself above the rest. What could have been nothing more than a notable collection of cinematographic songs, ambient music for sleepless nights, becomes a work with an open mind and hazy boundaries. It’s an album that holds hundreds of surprises, that overflows at every listen and obstinately refuses to be pigeonholed: listening to it is like hitting the street at night in search of adventure.