Landing albums have always been beauties regardless of volume, but they’ve usually been typecast as music for sleep or rest, operating well at lower volumes. Not so with their first album of new music in 6 years, the self-titled Landing. The louder you play it, the better it gets.
The personnel for this album is Aaron Snow, Adrienne Snow, and Daron Gardner, three-fourths of the most well-known Landing lineup (Dick Baldwin is credited on the song “Decades”). The first thing Landing fans will notice is that leader Aaron Snow’s technicolored collage art has been superseded by a cover depicting a photo of a stairwell in profile in nothing but grayscale – very succinct and modernist yet still atmospheric. This image hints at the latest embodiment of Landing – efficient and driving with a sleek titanium sheen and sturdy undergirding. While Landing’s music has always been essentially rhythmic, full of delayed guitar and synth lines that pulsate, bloom, and cascade, here their approach to rhythm is much more direct and rocking. Though filled with all sorts of cool sounds, the brightness is dialed back slightly and the monochromatic edge gives the whole affair a futuristic feel, even as the lyrics ponder childhood, responsibility, and the passage of time.
Lead track “Finally” feels like a shuttle launch, the bass and drums propelling a momentous, climbing trajectory while the trebly guitar and synth peel off and fly back where in the past they would have accumulated and dissipated. In fact, Snow’s trademark masterful touch with delay and tempo is often reshuffled into less recognizable, more experimental forms: off-kilter and dangling behind the beat on the fragile “Crows”, top-heavy and seesawing on “Decades”, laser-y on the finale “Native Land”, and like a space-age hoedown on the intro of “We Lie in Fields”. The low end has never been more prominent on a Landing record, asserting itself thickly in places and nimbly in others. The drums are also busier and louder than ever. The missing link here is the 2007 album by Aaron and Adrienne’s duo Paper, As As, which seems to have gotten Snow adept at playing quirky beats.
Throughout we hear Landing diving into new territory without trepidation. “Heart Finds the Beat” goes straight for tryyypy, futuristic pop, “Finally” lands somewhere between the surge of Fuck Buttons and the chiming guitars of the Edge, and “We Lie in Fields” is some sort of breakbeat Joy Divison. Though billed as a rebirth and reinvention, that’s really nothing new for Landing, whose albums have all surprised by exploring different territory in the same universe. Landing aren’t just a great band because they never seem to hit a sour note. They’re much like a restless mathematician, always pushing themselves into new territory, even as they’ve just figured out a new formula. Landing might be the farthest afield they’ve traveled from their past, but it sounds like they know where they want to go, and they’ve decided it’s more fun to drive there than to drift.