July 22, 2003

Landing "passages through"

Ambient music--it just ain't what it used to be. Used to be that ambient music was associated with musos like Brian Eno and Harold Budd, who made music for Ph.D's, podiatrist's waiting rooms and nobody else. If you took the time to look at the track listing, then you just didn't get it. Music for drugs? Nope, not really, because you couldn't listen to this music in anything but the purest of settings. You make babies to it, you bury people to it, you play a scene from a tragic European art film to it...and nothing more. And if you have an IQ of less than 140, then, really...you should just go listen to Warrant, because that's the only kind of music someone like you could ever appreciate.

Now, it seems like something changed. The musicians grew their hair, they started smoking those jazz cigarettes, and they became hippies. They became more interested in things like guitars, songs, and...singing. In fact, they started to resemble regular musicians--and their music was this dark, gothy mess called "post-rock" that just was oh-so boring. Sure, there were some exceptions--and some really great exceptions--but for most part ambient music it's just a delay pedal, distortion pedal, and tape loops, all put together in a recycled-paper package. Underground is where it comes from, and that's where it should stay.

Landing, however, is special. They're all touchy-feely-folky, but they're much more than that, because they're doing that whole cascading walls of ambient bliss-out noise sound type of thing, which is pretty good. They should be good at it, too--they've been doing it for years, both as Landing as well as in Yume Bitsu. What I like is the fact that they mix it up quite nicely; one ambient piece doesn't follow another; the shorter, folkier pieces always follow the epic ambient pieces--though it's often hard to tell them apart. When you float from "Hold Me Under" to "Close Your Eyes, Slowly," it all just seems so natural. Boy and girl vocals play peek-a-boo and tag throughout Passages Through but it's really not about the singing. Sadly, they never get as loud as you'd expect them to; they do get nearly silent, though, and that's something, isn't it? The epic, 14-minute "Breathing" is the highlight of the record; it is simply the light, breezy, slow sound of Landing--just breathing in and breathing out the melody; it's both haunting and very, very reassuring.

It's odd to see K Records developing a space-rock side, but it;'s not really surprising. Passages Through is a not-surprising collection of dream-pop from Landing; they've got their style on autopilot, and it's all systems go with Landing. It's a smooth ride with Landing, and though ambient music might not be what it used to be, methinks these Landing kids are worth keeping around. And, hey, from the looks of the cover, I bet Passages Through would go great with, erm...substances..though we don't condone them...openly, that is.

--Joseph Kyle

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