L A N D – Night WithinPosted by Sam Parker
The year I moved to Seattle, I worked a graveyard shift job which required me to sit around in an office, from dusk until dawn, on the off-hand possibility that someone called. I was allowed to sleep, provided I wake up and answer the phone when it rang – generally, it did so once or twice a night. I did this for over a year. On good nights, I slept until someone called, groggily answering someone’s questions. On bad nights, I didn’t sleep at all. Most of the time, it was just me, the softly phasing light of the radio towers on the hill up the way, and the menacing clanks and hums of 3am machinery.
This is the environment that L A N D’s debut release, Night Within, evokes. UK audio/visual artists Daniel Lea and Matthew Waters have created an album that’s all nocturnal introspection and quiet paranoia – the natural habitat of the graveyard hours. L A N D’s label, Important Records, has described the album as approaching an “apocalyptic noir narrative”, which is revealing in its word choice; noir is a visual term, pulled from the stark cinematography of hard-boiled detective films, and the music on Night Within follows suit. Many of the pieces on this album don’t feel like songs, but rather audio vignettes – pieces evoking a particular scene or location. “Nighthawks” is a contemplative horn refrain that conjures “Taxi Driver“, with De Niro driving endlessly throughout the midnight streets of New York. “Hotel Room”, with its hissing strings and rusty-hinge percussion, seems to draw more from the existential dread of being alone in the dark.
In fact, as the album progresses, it’s clear that L A N D’s name was an apt moniker; Night Within is a precise experiment in conjuring a specific place. In this case, it’s a mythological city, a purgatory – as each piece progresses, a secret of the city is unraveled. From the disorienting skronk of “Hotel Room”, we get the urban claustrophobia of “Dark City,” via the relentless beat of “Cold Desire”, we find the monolithic sprawl of “Blade Runner“. Song by song, this place is revealed to us, until we get to “Nothing Is Happening Everywhere”, a haunted house of a tune which features David Sylvian, formerly of the band Japan. Sylvian has come a long way since the synthesized glam of his former band, and backed by baritone strings and the metallic rasp of cymbals, his voice reveals one of the most vivid images of the album. When he intones “How could we become so brutal/When did we”, he trails off and is swallowed into the instruments, leaving us only with this truth about the city (and graveyard shifts): stay in it too long, and you’ll find yourself caught up in a slow-motion violence, an entropy that leaves everything – buildings, people, memories – grinding themselves into dust.
Moments like this on Night Within are a testament to the pure visceral power of L A N D’s work. An album like this could have easily been rendered into background music, playing second fiddle to its visual inspirations. Lea and Waters have instead, through a combination of a clear vision plus pure physicality, created a project where music creates its own universe, instead of simply accompanying it.