Daniel Land & The Modern Painters: Imagining October EP
Saint Cecilia Records

The obvious descriptor for Daniel Land & The Modern Painters' sound is “shoegaze” but the handle only works so well. Sure, there's no shortage of chiming, reverb-drenched guitar playing but the group parts company with the style in particularly noticeable stylistic manner on its Imagining October EP. The outfit largely eschews the prototypical roar that shoegaze bands love to build towards, and opt instead for an attack that's more akin to an elegantly restrained swoon. Daniel Land & The Modern Painters favours the dreamier and melodic side of the equation rather than the one that focuses on volume and aggression, and consequently calling the band's music “romantic dreampop” makes considerably more sense. Having said that, there's also no denying that the group's guitar sound will be amply familiar to fans of Ulrich Schnauss—not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that (in fact, at his request, the band recently supported Schnauss on the “Sonic Cathedral” tour).

Land's pure vocals resound clearly during the opening half of the near-eight-minute “Off Your Face Again” and when the music gradually transforms into a dense unfurl of guitar-fueled haze it does so smoothly rather than uproariously (the group's front line is an axe battalion consisting of Land, Graeme Meikle, and Oisin Scarlett). Following that we get the lulling dreampop of “Chagall Repeat (The Flight)” and “The Nights Are Falling” where a slow-motion cloud of guitars is so dense it renders the vocals almost indecipherable. At EP's end, the dramatic “Looking At September, Looking At October” clearly shows that the group has what it takes when a more epic approach is called for.

The songs are delivered with such confidence and poise it comes as a shock to discover how rocky the road was leading up to the EP's release. First of all, the band's drummer, Marcus Mayes, almost died earlier this year from double pneumonia and a collapsed lung, forcing the group to soldier on with replacement drummer Jason Magee; secondly, the group actually recorded a follow-up to its Voss debut EP but then scrapped it, making the second EP Imagining October in one sense the band's third (the discarded material wasn't destroyed, however; it's still in Land's possession and will see the light of day sometime in the future). No matter: Imagining October 's obviously a more-than-promising prelude to the band's debut album scheduled for release later this year which has as its working title Love Songs for The Chemical Generation—one that, whether the band likes it or not, can't help but encourage the shoegaze association.

September 2008