What makes a band a worthy veteran of the musical world? Years playing? Albums released? The ability to produce consistently attractive albums? For the Connecticut based ambient-shoegazers –Landing –it’s about all three. The band’s tenth and latest release, Complekt captures this, demonstrates the ways in which Landing represents all of us looking to create convincing and seductive soundscapes. Their music sucks the listener in relentlessly and keeps them there.
Landing’s latest album falls somewhere between post-rock, shoegazea, and a nap. The band demonstrates all the melodic hypnotization you come to expect from the shoegaze/dreampop world, with a base of guitar strings galore. It’s post-rock with a meditative or introspective component. While this slowed down approach has its merits in presenting one hell of a soundscape, it also has some fallbacks presenting the looming danger of being, dare I say it, boring.
Landing’s Complekt begins with a song titled, “Light.” Piece by piece, layers of texture begin to build. It’s based in loose electronic additions and guitar strings that carve out a slightly melodious, flowing element to the track. The vocals come in softly and drift throughout, adding a distant and hypnotizing aspect. As the song begins to fade into a static, we hear the album progress. The second track to follow, “Complekt,” is about as thrilling as Landing’s album will get. It’s all fuzzed out rock guitars along a thunderous march of percussive hits. The vocals add an airy quality to the rock jam. It’s an early highpoint for Landing, consisting of energetic instrumentals and soaring vocals. The song fades into a familiar cacophonous ending that leads us into the next.
Landing’s third track, “Weft,” begins the great unwind. From here onward, Complekt loses its momentum track by track. “Weft” lets a still lively percussion combat the echo chamber of guitars. The rhythm plays around a flowing stream of guitars. It’s a trip that pulls you into a music forest –a beautiful soundscape that grabs the reigns of your imagination. Still, after the album’s last track, you find yourself wanting a little more of Landing’s intense side. Instead, “Shifts,” presents something truly unique for Complekt. “Shifts,” is by all means a bit more psychedelic compared to the rest of the album. The backing electronic lines are reminiscent of Shpongle –hell, the whole song may as well be a Shpongle tune.
It’s here that, looking back, it seems as if the first four songs of Complekt are by all means fine and listenable, but don’t seem to build an easily digestible, cohesive album. It’s a bit sporadic and eclectic for such an atmospheric album. Still, there was something more amiss.
At its absolute worst, Complekt is tedious. There is little pickup in the album and little payoff for tearing through the thicks of repetitive chords and layers of texture that are absolutely suffocating. Perhaps this sort of thing is personal preference, but there really is such a thing as too much buildup. Landing really fails to deliver any point of release. I won’t take airy, echoing, and droning melodies as an acceptable payoff, it just seems lazy. Worse off, some songs approach ‘generic’. For instance, “Clouds II,” struck me as some sort of Buffy The Vampire Slayer backtrack –loose vocals mixed with predictable and repetitious guitars –no end in sight and it’s drown out by the more interesting sounds of a leaky faucet dripping in the distance. It’s not that Complekt is bad per say, it’s just heavily disappointing for a band that has garnered so much attention across ten releases. Even for patiently executed crescendos or dreamy, trance inducing, shoegaze –it’s just not particularly inspiring. More can be done with atmosphere in more creative manners than the band lets onto.
The album’s latter half really closes out with ambience, culminating excellence with its sixth track, “Grow.” The album begins with every little sound effect imaginable, flooding the speakers with a futuristic atmosphere guided by a variety of instrumental voices. As the track evens out, it adopts simplicity as a virtue and focuses in on carefully adding each layer –note by note another resonating tone. When those misty vocals come in once more, it adds a comforting layer that helps carry “Grow” onward and out. The track is an astonishing ten minutes, but unlike the rest of the album, presents a more carefully construct, patiently strewn out ambience, making it far more savory.
Complekt is complex –the album features a variety of ambient tunes that draw on a number of instruments, effects, and voices. While the outcome of the soundscapes is often pleasant and effective enough, the album does fail to be a groundbreaking listen. That said, Landing really keeps their shoegaze clean, patient, and focused. The album delivers again and again, incredibly overwhelming, hypnotizing tracks. For those of us who can safely indulge in the most simplified and droned out sorts of ambience, feel free to embrace Complekt. For post-rock fans and shoegazers alike, looking for at least a little more spice –stay weary of this one. The repetitious guitar lines can get to you.