Land Observations, last album Roman Roads IV–XI is one of the Review Corner’s favourite albums. It’s a piece of sonic art (ambient music is too wishy washy a term) in which artist and musician James Brooks tries to convey a sense of place through music. It’s not ambient because most of the songs feature a strummed guitar — after all, songs about roads need a bit of oomph to them. At the time we reckon we gave the album a good review, but it’s one of those where, some time later, we think we should review it again and be more fulsome in the praise. It was one of our albums of 2013, even though it came out in 2012.
This latest album sees James (we’ve spoken on Twitter, so we can call him that) move from Roman roads to the more abstract Grand Tour, the trip round Europe undertaken by wealthy young men to see the world before they got too fat to move and crippled by gout and syphilis.
As with the Roman project, each of eight tracks follows a route, from On Leaving The Kingdom For The Well-Tempered Continent to Flatlands and The Flemish Roads, taking in the view From The heights Of The Simplon Pass.
Now, it’s not a complicated album. Every song is led by a strummed guitar and there is minimal instrumentation and no drums. The sound is built up around the guitar sounds — the only instrument used — and so is repetitious. The overall effect is a relaxing soundscape, suggesting perambulation through a slowly changing landscape, more laid back and organic than Kraftwerk and their horrid cars on asphalt.
In balance we have to say that Review Cornerer CNM of the sharp tongue said of this: “What’s this annoying music? Did he play it to inmates of an asylum to make sure it’s maddening enough?”
That won’t put us off; we love it. It takes a few plays, mind: you have to slow to walking pace to enjoy it.