Land Observations // In Short

LandObservations_ErikaWall

Play his two albums loud or play them quiet. It makes no difference. Because whether he’s playing loud or quiet, attacking or placid, ambient guitar specialist James Brooks – aka Land Observations – knows how to build a groove. And then camp out in it, build a roaring fire, roast marshmallows and spin some yarns.

His new album The Grand Tour is the follow up to his 2012 debut, Roman Roads IV-XI (both on Mute). While the latter was concerned with the roads of communication and conquest that stretched across the former Roman Empire and Republic, his new album creates an imaginary travelogue through Western, Central and Southern Europe with reference to the historic Grand Tour. Got that? You will be quizzed on it later.

The album was recorded on the edge of the Bavarian Alps and James was armed with just one electric six-string guitar, as he set about exploring the potential of the instrument in relation to layers, rhythm, melody and timbre. The recording process utilised a selection of vintage amplifiers and studio equipment, intentionally enjoying the warmth of analogue tape for assisting to create immersive pastoral motorik. And believe me it does rock in its own persistent and delightful way.

The route that Brooks has taken to reach Land Observations began with Appliance, Brooks was a founding member and guitarist in the band. Appliance ended in 2003, but before that released four acclaimed albums on Mute.

Historically, The Grand Tour was a traditional rite of passage for wealthy university graduates that became popular in the 18th century. This was the beginning of cultural travel and tourism as we have come to know it. The tour’s itinerary was designed to expand minds through experiencing the treasures of European art, music, architecture and topography.

It sounds a bit esoteric. And there are moments in both albums where James chooses the hard road. But with repeated listens and the right mood, they offer a powerful lesson in deconstructing the guitar riff and its power when harnessed with a bit of restraint and vision.

That’s why he loves Can and their propensity to unleash a cosmic jam that is both edgy and propulsive. Read on to see if we can transport him back to 1970s Cologne to unite him with his musical heroes…

If I had to describe my music in 3 words, I’d use…
Pastoral, rhythmic and warm

My favourite film ever is…
It would have to be Orson Welles’ The Third man

The most famous person I’ve met is…
Well, I once met Paul McCartney – I believe he was in a band called The Quarrymen…

The song I hate the most is…
Mmm, there’s so many to choose from, but it would have to be ‘Europe – The Final Countdown’. I guess there’s degrees of bad – there’s missing the mark and then there’s songs that are just beyond.

The worst job I’ve ever had is…
I think it would have to be while a student working behind a bar in a tourist resort. Lots of drunk people endlessly desperate for more alcohol – and then there was the music selection…

If I was in a tribute band it would be…
If it has to be a big, famous band… I would say perhaps Bob Marley and the Wailers. I wonder what this incarnation could be called?

My favourite word is…
Soporific

If I had a super power I’d want it to be…
To live forever would be quite useful…

If I could play a gig anywhere it would be…
The amphitheatre in Pompeii would be very nice – and have it filmed

I think you should listen to…
Forest Swords are interesting, William Tyler I like and actually most of the post-Takoma style guitar players. To Rococo Rot are always good. Then there is always room in everyone’s life for The Durutti Column too.

If I could see anyone play live it would be…
I never saw Can play live… so it would be great if you can organise for me to see them in their 1970s prime. Can you arrange it?

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Buy: Land Observations – The Grand Tour