Land Observations, Roman Roads IV-XI

Sharon O'Connell

By Sharon O'Connell

on 10.22.12 in Reviews

Roman Roads IV-XI

Land Observations

Since disbanding his melodic post-rock outfit Appliance, James Brooks has not only continued his guitar experimentations, but also developed an interest in drawing and type-based media. The symbiotic nature of these projects is reflected in his solo debut as Land Observations, on which he is reacting sonically to the visual stimulus of his local landscape.

Serene and minimal, yet warm and lustrous

Roman Roads IV-XI is a set of eight instrumentals underlining Brooks’s longstanding interest in the possibilities of drone and repetition, each of them a response to a particular ancient London road. If that suggests a soundtrack to some dry, academic exercise in psychogeography, nothing could be further from the truth. Brooks’s serene and minimal, yet warm and lustrous pieces played on his electric six-string feature complex looping and layering and strong, intertwined harmonies, which are underpinned by powerful motorik grooves – a reminder that these Roman carriageways are the ancient equivalent of Kraftwerk’s beloved autobahns.

Despite the compelling, slow-build momentum of “Aurelian Way” and “Appian Way,” and the flickering, hypnotic pulse of “The Chester Road,” Brooks is not a hopeless retro-futurist pining for kosmische authenticity. His subtly expressive compositions also recall The Durutti Column and Robert Fripp’s work with Eno, while his fascination with concepts of mantric power is surely as old as human history itself.