I’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