Album Review: Land Trance – ‘First Séance’: dazzlingly cinematic and truly exploratory

Land Trance - photo credit: Laura Spark

The Breakdown

A record as dazzlingly cinematic as it is truly exploratory, First Séance impresses with sheer emotion; the album’s course cohesively woven through each siphoning of emphatic, elevating, melancholic elation.

INITIALLY released last year through Forest Sword’s Dense Truth label and imminently to be released on the mercurial Rocket Recordings, First Séance is the debut album from Land Trance: a collaborative project borne from the dual, equally ingenious musical gifts of Andrew P.M. Hunt and Benjamin D. Duvall.

Although it is their debut album, the duo’s paths have long been intertwined. The two have long shared rehearsal spaces and band mates – whilst Duvall was delving into percussive ensemble composition as the founder of the acclaimed Ex-Easter Island Head, Hunt was exploring the possibilities of songwriting, synthesis and texture as Dialect and leader of art rock band Outfit.

The album combines electro-acoustic and studio as post-production, utilising zither, drum machine, music box, dictaphone, synthesiser, melodica and more. This vast artistic curiosity is satisfied through metamorphosing, hypnagogic soundscapes; inducing soporific states that never once deviate from their profoundly hypnotic stream. The singular allure of the album lies in the single, unwavering emotion focused through Land Trance’s captivating sonic collage; unlike other artists, whose efforts at doing so prove blander than a bowl of Shreddies, they imbue the record with a soul-stirring, distinctive melancholy. The well of this unquenchable melancholic elixir in fact remains constantly full, even after umpteen listens. This could be because of the duo’s ability to – through each track, in a different but similarly ingenious fashion – splice this emotion into many guises; using myriad instrumentation in myriad ways.

First Séance

“Regulate” and “A Raft” whirr with synth behemoths, emitting an organic, lurid appeal – an envisaging of galvanic, shifting tectonic plates; mirroring the incisive emotion the track and album stirs. “Regulate” also characterises the intensely, intricately layered narrative of First Séance – each movement brushing against another and invoking further emotion: metallic zither mingling with these titanic synth nodes.

“Chilean Miners” and “Beach Mystery” add intrigue to the album’s focused channeling of melancholy – snippets and murmurs of vocals eking into the flowing aural jigsaw. The former sees the rippled layering of synths and bass-y tremors envelope the distorted vocal mirage, while this cinematic vista is brought to exquisite fruition with the latter. Beach, a soporific and transformative soundscape of sifting sonic accoutrements, fits dialogue – providing a personal, longingly melancholic element – into an ambient utopia,  with the hypnagogic to and fro of waves.

“Velarde” lulls the ears via similarly mesmeric realms of percussive ambience, ushering an ambient cathedral-esque quality, accentuated by magnificently melancholy vocals.

Alongside this intrinsic eeriness and mystique, a vivid sense of place is embedded, perhaps granted by the diverse locales of the album’s inception: from a bedroom atop Concert Square, to Liverpool’s beating nightlife; pieced together in the home studio they share in a converted embassy.

The title track stretches the duo’s artistic experimentation to it’s fullest: low synth coruscating melancholy-filled, rattling zither; heightening into awe-striking, almost Merzbow-ian synthy sludge.

The closing chapter, “Yardang” seals First Séance with hopeful, instrumental decadence. Zesty chirrups of synth, buoyed by the piano’s effusive plods, bring the album’s epilogue an optimistic, incandescent finality.

A record as dazzlingly cinematic as it is truly exploratory in its aural landscape, First Séance impresses with the symbiosis of each musical component and the sheer emotion they convey; the album’s course cohesively woven, stitched seamlessly through each siphoning of emphatic, elevating, melancholic elation.

Land Trance’s First Séance will be available from Rocket Recordings on June 18th. See the visuals for “A Raft” below, envisioned by Rocket Recordings’ John O’ Carroll.

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