Very rarely does a record manage to capture a spectrum of cinematic detail in it’s profoundly illustrative composition, spinning yarns across it’s runtime like neighbouring scenes. However – with far greater ambition and grace than any crassly conceived concept album – the new collaborative project between Land Trance and Aging does just that, envisioning a labyrinthine swathe of dark tales behind the jazz and ambient layers. The duo of Land Trance comprise Benjamin D. Duvall – founder and creative director of prepared guitar ensemble ExEaster Island Head – and Andrew PM Hunt – prolific composer and solo performer as Dialect. Manchester’s Aging complement the duo’s eclectic improvisation with jazz brilliance, evincing the sharp tension of detective fiction. Besides this reminiscence, the record also evokes John Hassell and a building sense of noir cinema.
Embassy Nocturnes is cinematically engrossing not only in it’s grand scope and vivid detail, but also the structure with which it unfolds: reaching tantalising peaks and emotive, brooding troughs; and also threading the album together intricately in a narrative like neatness.
Although the moody tension of Shattered Room – an emphatic introduction to the album’s shadowy, noir feel – is the Manchester jazz outfit at the helm, the majority is a fine, harmonious balance of musical imprints. The staggering coordinated dalliances on Creeping Moonlight, for example, sees Land Trance’s evocative zither and Aging’s monolithic piano chords rising in tandem like filmic characters themselves, increasingly bruising emotion slowly eking from each.
The album’s beginning is sculpted into another guise in the penultimate chapter, stretched to the narrative’s most lucidly haunting limits, the monotone beauty of plodding piano, trumpet, and saxophone swept along by a ravishing plethora of improvisational tools from the Land Trance arsenal. Similarly satisfying is the splicing of ‘Findings I’ and ‘Findings II’, the rippling synths recalling the nocturnal imagery Creeping Moonlight’s title and aural opalescence imagines.
Embassy Nocturnes’ cinematic sense, sequestered in it’s own intriguingly macabre bubble, is augmented by the interconnected nature of the artwork – the Brazilian Embassy in Liverpool where the recording took place – and the equally charismatic and austere track titles; and the glassy lens through which the masterful production lends the sound.
Merging the bubbling drum machines of Land Trance into Joel C. Murray’s organic, mercurial drumming, Lights in the Driveway is a stirringly perfect marriage of the two bands – one part Coltrane fever dream, another part unpredictable improvisational excellence; the latter springing headily from the fog of the former. Here, the breath-taking Elvin Jones rapture is mounted at the fore while lavish bouts of saxophone blasts sit somewhere in the vein of Interstellar Space. However, these are given an altogether different aura with the production’s sense of the recording taking place down a distant hallway, granting further intrigue via an aural version of craning the neck, as you try to burrow deeper into the secrets of that heavenly squall.
This initial formation of Land Trance and Aging’s two distinct musical personalities produces an album of exquisite instrumentals, simultaneously spontaneous and exacting in the remarkable effect of both heavy improvisation and extensive post production, which results in utter cinematic-sonic immersion.
Embassy Nocturnes is out now on Tombed Visions Records – listen here. The album is also available on limited Edition LP pressed on 170gram Black Smoke vinyl with heavyweight card sleeve and full colour insert and poly-lined inner – available here. Listen to First Séance, the debut album from Land Trance and 14th in The Quietus’ best albums of 2020, here, and check out Aging’s latest LP here.