Landau: Thepicompromise

Merck's been riding a pretty impressive wave the past little while with solid releases from Deru (Trying To Remember), Machine Drum (Bidnezz), Tiki Obmar (Seasons), and Ilkae (Bovine Rearrangement) appearing in the racks (though it should be noted that Seasons and Bovine Rearrangement are almost entirely remix collections, so their positive impressions should be credited as much, if not more, to the contributors than to the originating artists); even better, they all sound different—Tiki's post-rock is nothing like Machine Drum's hip hoptronica, for example. Unfortunately, Landau's disc isn't quite the equal of the others. Before addressing album details, though, a bit of background is in order. To begin with, little information about the group is available on the album or at its web site (presently, at least). What is known is that Thepicompromise is Landau's debut, and that the group consists of Jon Martin, Ian Pojman, Grant Wheeler, and Matt Young; clarification of the individuals' roles in the group or in the disc's production isn't provided.

Impressions, then, must derive exclusively from the album. The facts first: fourteen instrumental tracks total an hour, with the group's sound generally emerging as a fusion of intricate Autechrian rhythm patterns flavoured by hip-hop. There's much to admire, including the collection's best piece, the opener “Six Ways To Sunday.” Emerging from an intro of panning clatter and squeaky rustlings, the song features memorable sing-song chiming melodies draped over squelchy funk patterns, with chopped voices added for extra texture. Even though it's more a groove than a composition, “Good Morning Gravity” impresses too with its dubby production treatments and percussion-heavy clanking rhythms. With its warm Rhodes touches and restrained hip-hop beats, “Oustduo” showcases Landau's more delicate side, and the glistening melodies in “Ways Home” and dreamy synth atmospheres of “Aquaint” are appealing as well. Plus there's no denying the quality of the group's beat constructions. The punchy funk beats in “Steppen” are strong, while “You Are A Commodity” features incredible breaks; in the unusual “Iamiago,” scurrying patterns gradually settle into hip hop-inflected passages until the track stumbles exhaustedly to an entropic close. Thepicompromise ends idiosyncratically with the collage-like abstraction “Independence” which juxtaposes classical piano, harp, and music box motifs with Autechrian throbs and pounds.

While Landau's definite strong point is its beat constructions, the album is weakened by the group's occasional habit of letting tracks meander; the group could be more disciplined, in other words, in the compositional development department; “Thanks A Whole Lot,” to cite one instance of many, is an impressive array of intricate machine patterns but little else. Consequently, Thepicompromise ultimately registers as a good recording rather than the great one it might have been.

January 2005