In an era where it’s easy for any reflecting person to lapse into agonised scrutiny of our fraught and dangerous times, the art that seems to have fared best has been that which has markedly distanced itself from the uncertainties of our lives. Landers are an accomplished trio of musicians who offer sweet relief from the daily tumult with an alluring span of music, which ranges from clear-eyed folk to experimental jazz.
Defying the impulse to create and upload content instantly, Landers, consisting of Dubliner Christopher Colm Morrin on vocals and guitar, and the Berlin born rhythm section of bassist Paul Breiting and drummer Max von der Goltz, have been steadily releasing the fruits of a productive pre-Corona recording session at KAOS, a warehouse on the outskirts of Berlin, in the form of four singles. Together, these releases paint a captivating portrait of a band who manage to infuse a folk core with a tantalising potpourri of textures and soundscapes.
Their first two releases, Clear Blue Sky and Just Thinking, already showcased their limber musicianship and aptitude for writing limpid melodies: the former showcasing Morrin’s gorgeous falsetto over an elegant bass riff; the latter demonstrating a Motorik beat redolent of Kraurock legends Can, over which Icelandic guest musician Sölvi Kolbeinsson provides elegiac saxophone.
But the other tracks from each release have been just as intriguing – Nothing to Say (Pt.3) from Clear Blue Sky displays the music school credentials of the rhythm section, with Breiting’s distorted bass dancing alongside von der Goltz’s crisp, inventive drumming, over which Morrin adds hushed reverb-drenched vocals and guitar textures in something far closer to experimental jazz than folk; and Heart is in the Land – Reprise, from Just Thinking, conjures an ambient wall of reverb and delay over which cymbals fizzle and bass chords hum, recalling post-rock legends Explosions in the Sky.
Latest release Washing with Water adds further nuance and intrigue to their sonic palette and continues a trend of coupling a catchy title track with a compelling counterpoint. When interviewing the band late last year, I was struck by their absolute lack of ego, and the dedication of each member to serving the overall sound rather than saturating the music with individual contributions. Nothing epitomises this approach more than 22, Washing with Water’s opening track, where the band are happy to sit back entirely and allow friend Vincent Audusseau to take centre stage in an ambient sound collage which layers fragments of acoustic piano originally recorded for the title track with squalls of delay and feedback. This Brian Eno-esque piece recalls Moss Garden from Bowie’s Heroes album, with piano chords trilling and splashing like cooling rivulets of water, before being smothered by buzz saw jets of white noise, with nods to Revolution 9 by the Beatles in its disconcerting texturing.
22 serves as an enigmatically cinematic prelude to the beautiful Washing with Water, which opens with a chiming 6/8 acoustic guitar figure, over which Morrin wistfully sings: “Floating in this lake/ Feeling the world go by, go by/ Drop after drop/ Smile after smile, after smile.” Tapping into our need for release, renewal and escape, the song undulates with unhurried grace, before being borne on the wings of Breiting’s sensitive bass playing, and von der Goltz’s understated drumming. Audusseau’s piano is again employed to shimmering effect, with cascading piano chords completing the picture of a lakeside idyll far removed from the uncertainty of our times.
With their latest release, Landers once more prove their remarkable ability to blend a mix of influences into two tracks defined less by individual showmanship than by sonic adventurism and musical selflessness. In doing so, they continue to display their knack for conjuring an array of moods and soundscapes and offer an enticing promise of what’s yet to come.
Washing with Water is available to listen to now on Spotify
As with their previous EPS, their latest release is also available on hand made limited edition tape cassette here, designed and crafted by Berlin based artwork and graphic designer Daniela Elorza.