Sounds of the Universe : A Conversation With Astral TV

For me, a record has to pull me from my surroundings and put me in another headspace. I want an album to paint something in my brain and make me psychically open up and let some of the universe inside. Music should be more than just mere entertainment; it should make you feel something. As a kid music affected me in a way that cartoons, movies, and books never did. My imagination bloomed when a song hit me the right way.

I think that’s why I’m drawn to synth music. There’s nothing obvious about the musical world an analog synthesizer is creating. You’re not being told what to think or what it means. There’s a visceral aspect to synth music that you don’t get with a rock album or pop single. It’s pure, raw emotional content that’s being pushed through tubes and circuits via the composer. They can lead you down a path to contentment and beauty, enlightenment, or sonic anxiety. They open a portal and you’re allowed to step in and see where it leads.

Astral TV is a synth duo based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They released their debut with El Paraiso Records, titled Chrystal Shores, back in July and it’s a record that opens many portals. Rasmus Rasmussen and Keith Canisius have created a modern ambient album that pulls from both a New Age lean and a Sci Fi vibe. If this album was a movie it’d be a cross between Kubrick’s 2001 : A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Musically these two are taking some of the headier vibes of Tangerine Dream and giving them a bit of light, though at times the light feels a ways away. Astral TV create a warm and inviting sound that you can easily get lost in.

I had a chance to talk with Rasmus and Keith about the record, their influences, and the large amount of wires it takes to make the magic happen.


J. Hubner: So tell me about how Astral TV came together? How long have you two been making music together?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Actually Astral TV have existed less than a year. But the two of us have played together for some years now, accompanying each other in various projects. Then Keith was asked to play a concert last winter, and he suggested we do it as a duo instead, and that was the beginning of Astral TV.

J. Hubner: Who are some influences you guys are pulling from? If you had to name one album that you looked to for inspiration in creating the Astral TV world what would that be?

Rasmus Rasmussen:  I guess it’s really a wide range of stuff, and quite different for each of us. We both love newer electronic music like Boards of Canada, Tim Hecker and that kind of stuff, but for me the classic kosmische kraut stuff is definitely a huge influence as well. The same goes for Eno and also late 90’es / start 00’es electronica and ambient. One album that has influenced the way I approach what we do with Astral TV would be “New Age of Earth” by Ashra.

Keith Canisius: I think we can pull a lot of inspiration from small things. I definitely wanted to bring the film music aspect into the picture. Allowing us to work with shorter sequences and mood presentations. I’m more interested in what people think it sounds like, than the few bands I could mention, when I think hard about it.

J. Hubner: Similar to the previous question, are there any films or film soundtracks that blew your collective minds that went into molding the Astral TV sound?

Rasmus Rasmussen: The Blade Runner soundtrack would definitely be an essential key to the Astral TV sound. That’s a record which has stayed with the both of us from quite early on and still is a big influence. For me the Popol Vuh soundtracks from the 70’es have also been a big influence.

Keith Canisius: Blade Runner yes. For me most sci-fi movies from the 80’s and 70’s. I liked Interstellar too. But mostly the sci-fi movies from my childhood. Some newer movies like It Follows was really nice too. Movies play a bigger inspiration for me than actual music artists in this project.

J. Hubner: What’s the writing process like for Astral TV? Do you two get in a room together with tons of gear and improvise until you like the vibe? Or do you share music files via the internet and just add to each others ideas? Do you each have your own futuristic-looking music stations, surrounded by synths like Edgar Froese or Rick Wakeman?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Some tracks are written by one or the other, and then the other supplies his stuff, but mostly we just get in my basement and jam. We both have our gear set up down there and live right next to each other, so when we are up for it we just meet after work or in the weekends and jam out for a few hours. We’ll record it all, and at some point we go through the recordings and see what works. Most of the tracks on the album were done this way, based on improvisations. It might be edited a bit afterwards, but as little as possible. We like to keep the spontaneity of it.

And yeah, both our synths setups are quite extensive. We are gear nerds, we like knobs and don’t do well with limitations.

J. Hubner: You’ve just released your new LP Chrystal Shores via El Paraiso Records, but this isn’t your first release. You released ‘Stations’, a limited edition tape in April via Funeral Tapes. Are there any significant difference between the two? Is ‘Stations’ available digitally?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Some of the material is the same, but there are differences in the track list. Some tracks are on the tape and not on the vinyl and vice versa. Also the production is a bit different. It was the tape that actually made us realize we had some material worth putting out. One of our friends runs the Funeral Tapes label and asked us to do the tape, and that made us dig through the recordings we’d done when jamming and found that there was stuff we could use. The tape is not out digitally. It’s a very limited release of fifty tapes, which can be bought from the label.

J. Hubner: First off, ‘Chrystal Shores’ is a stunning record of beautiful electronica and heavy synth. How long was the writing and recording process for the LP? It has a really heavy 70s vibe. A basement spin for sure, complete with beanbag chair and incense burning. Was that the aesthetic you guys were going for?

Rasmus Rasmussen: Thanks! Most tracks are essentially first takes and have only been played that one time of recording. So both the writing and recording process was quite short. The mixing as well. We only did what was necessary to make it glue and work as self-enclosed tracks. Some times new stuff was added, but it was all a very spontaneous process, without too much fiddling around. That way of working is completely opposite to how I’ve done my solo albums, meticulously building it up until you have a finished track. Here you just listen to hours of jams, occasionally going: “Wait, stop, there was a track!”. There was never a conscious intent on sounding retro, but I guess there’s something inherent in using these instruments in the way we do, that’ll pull the sound in that direction. With that said there was no attempt what so ever of avoiding that thick new age vibe – on the contrary really. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff, and if we can do anything to mend it’s crummy reputation just a little, I’ll be happy.

Keith Canisius: This project is also opposite from most my solo stuff. Keeping it to the idea of music for film scenes makes it easier for me to free. Then I have some simple borders to work out from. We also want to be able to perform it live without any back tracks going on. Above mentioned ideas gives it a border, that makes it much easier for me to be creative. A track like “Surveillance” is really wild. The thought that we did that suddenly in the middle of a jam without speaking about it is pure magic. A lot of tracks happened like that, but that long track was something special. Special how the whole thing came alive in one take without any communication.

J. Hubner: I wanted to ask you Keith, you live in Copenhagen but you’re originally from Massachusetts, right? How did you end up in Denmark?

Keith Canisius:  My father (Dutch) moved to Cambridge Mass., where he met my mother. They got married and had me. Later on they went to Holland, but the marriage ended. My mother took my brother and I to a friend she had from Harvard university, who had moved back to Denmark. She got settled and remarried in Denmark.

J. Hubner: What drew you two to the synthesizer? Did it start out with piano lessons as a kid then progressed to a Buchla set up in the family room?

Rasmus Rasmussen: I started playing keyboards when I was nine. It was the first instrument I learned to play. It was a fascination with 80’es synth bands that drew me to it. Aha and stuff like that, but more specifically the synth theme in Phil Collins “Another day in Paradise” played an important role. I was very much into that. So my parents sent me to keyboard lessons. I lost interest for a while, focusing on the guitar in my teens, but when I got into electronic music in the late nineties, I invested in samplers and synths and the collection has just expanded from there.

Keith Canisius:  My brother had a Juno 60 and my stepdad had a piano and later on a grand piano in our home throughout my childhood. Although guitar became my main instrument in my early teens, I’ve always be fiddling around with keys in some way. When my music became more serious I got a Prophet 08, which I still use all the time. I also think guitar got a little boring at a point. So diving into the synth world was exciting for me.

J. Hubner: With the album officially out, will you guys be taking Astral TV on the road? I can only imagine that being a daunting task. Lots of wires I imagine.

Rasmus Rasmussen: Yes, we have a couple of shows lined up in the near future. Most of the tracks are essentially recorded live, so in that way it makes good sense, but we are still trying to figure out the perfect way of bringing it to the stage. We want to keep the spontaneity and improv vibe but avoid too much aimless noodling, so it’s about finding the right balance. And yeah, the amount of wires are enormous. We’re trying to limit ourselves, but it’s not working out very well.

J. Hubner: What’s next for Astral TV? Could we see a follow up to Chrystal Shores at some point?

Rasmus Rasmussen: A follow up is very likely. We’ll focus on playing shows for a while, but in that process we’ll probably be working on a new album. We are recording continuously and already have a good deal of material and a bunch of tracks that’s more or less done.

Keith Canisius: We have some nice new stuff already as Rasmus mentioned, and we are looking forward to exploring this world much much more for many years hopefully.


 

Astral TVs Chrystal Shores is still available at El Paraiso Records and at Forced Exposure.

Auburn Lull : Hypha

If you’re not paying attention you may just miss the existential beauty that engulfs the music of Auburn Lull. There’s a gauzy drift that permeates from this Lansing, Michigan-based dream pop band and the music they create. Ever since their 1999 debut Alone I Admire there was always this feeling that the band had some serious spatial information to share and that they were conveying that galactic message through their cavernous music. Though being tucked up in the middle of Michigan didn’t help to spread their musical presence of oneness, they have over the course of 20+ years built a strong following among those musical folks in the know. One of those folks is Jonas Munk who runs the most excellent Azure Vista Records in Denmark. Munk and Azure Vista Records are releasing the first record of new Auburn Lull music since 2008’s Begin Civil Twilight.

The new record, Hypha, is what you would hope it would be and more. It’s a dreamy, cavernous record filled with distant harmonies, slow motion melodies unraveling like a tree in the October cold, and ambient textures that hint at greater meaning in nothing more than a sustained guitar note.

Hypha is the kind of record you can put on and let it absorb in the background. Yet, if you stop what you’re doing and let the music wash over you it’s a much more visceral experience.  Album opener “Juni” has the sound of ghosts whispering in the hallowed halls of some ancient building. It’s a mixture of melancholy history and a future unknown. For the younger crowd that may not have a reference point with Auburn Lull, imagine Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House, but far deeper lost in the ether. “Juni” sounds like looking into the beautiful abyss. “Outsight” opens with ethereal guitars and bits of crackling and buzzing of amps. The vocals feel more like ancient tomes than modern pop vocals. It’s like Tibetan chant through the mind of Brian Wilson. “Silo” crackles with electronic energy beneath the cavernous vocals that do indeed sound like they were recorded in a silo. The music kicks in and it has an almost electro pop feel to it, but if Brian Eno was at the helm. “Starlet” is pure droning bliss. It’s more in line with Jason Kolb’s Billow Observatory(a band Kolb is in with Jonas Munk, no less.) It bends and twists into this beautiful vocal track as it makes its way to its far too soon ending.

The songs on Hypha never wear out their welcome, and in some cases they feel as if they could go on forever. The beautiful “Divaldlo pts. i, ii, iv” is indeed one of those songs. Piano, organ, and cavernous reverb are always welcome, and in Auburn Lull’s hands they’re transcendent. Closer “Mora/Mirage” brings all those beautiful elements together expertly. It encapsulates the heady shoegaze drifts, the ethereal ambient, and the spatial pop elements that Auburn Lull have been perfecting for 20 years now.

Hypha is a whisper from the universe courtesy of Auburn Lull. Within its 9 tracks there seems to be some galactic bit of ancient wisdom wrapped up in dream pop and ambient vibes. Auburn Lull have tapped into some serious existential tomes once again in the wooded landscapes of Michigan. In the times we are currently living in, I think we could all use some existential tomes. Drop the needle on Hypha and cleanse your brain.

8.2 out of 10

 

 

Papir : V

The Danish trio Papir have always sounded much larger than you’d expect three guys to sound. With just the guitar/bass/drums rock trio standard set up, these guys make a mountain of sound. At times brash and fuzz-covered, other times dreamy and atmospheric, Nicklas Sørensen, Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen, and Christian Becher Clausen cover terrain as diverse as psych rock, post-rock, and even moments veering on progressive. Their tenure with El Paraiso Records gave our ears classics like Stundum, IIIIV , and their explosive Live At Roadburn that showed they are a force to be reckoned with live. These records set the stage for the trio from Copenhagen to seriously blow minds(and eardrums) for years to come.

Papir have returned from a three year hiatus with a brand new album and a brand new record label. Papir’s V is everything you’d hope from them and more. A double LP that spans over 90 minutes, V is a heady, expansive journey into the cosmos and back. Grab some headphones and a couple beers and get set to take flight.

Papir’s move from the mighty El Paraiso Records to Stickman Records has done nothing to quell the trio’s heady, hazy musical atmospherics. The record is seven songs clocking in over 90 minutes and is easily their most epic set yet. This is their most consistently dreamy collection of songs as well. At times there’s moments of Krautrock repetition(“V.II”), grand moments of blissed-out psychedelia(“V.III”), and epic musical statements(“V.VII”), but nothing ever gets into overdrive here. There are a few moments where Sørensen pushes his amps into overdrive territory, but for the most part this is a groove-driven affair. The rhythm section of Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and Christian Becher Clausen lay down some solid groove foundations which allow the guitars to float above the proceedings and go where they may.

That’s not to say this isn’t a heavy record.

On the contrary, this album is like looking into some unknown abyss. It’s a beautiful and overwhelming experience. There are moments when everything melts together into one cavernous sound, as if the band are performing in a black hole. I liken it to my experience with vast, open spaces; back when I used to ride rollercoasters and would often go to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio for the non-pharmaceutical thrills. Sitting amidst the gray, ominous waters of Lake Erie, those slow crawls up that first great hill on the Magnum XL-200 were both exhilarating and horrifying. Clear days were okay, but overcast days the lake looked like this endless expanse that would devour you whole in an instant. And at night, the giant ferris wheel sat on what seemed to be the edge of the world. Lights flickered as you were cast up into the night sky to look over into Lake Erie’s beckoning calls. V has moments of that overwhelming vastness.

“V.III” starts out like some great post-rock anthem and then seems to slowly dissipate into that black abyss. “V.IV” is reminiscent of the lighter moments of Stundum. It feels like an early morning buzz as the crisp air hits your lungs and the day unfolds before your eyes. There’s a jazz quality to the drumming here. It’s like Tony Williams getting weird with NEU! in 1973. Opener “V.I” is like a hand guiding you through a technicolor maze. It’s breezy and takes flight many times, with the guitars getting nice and gritty at moments. Nicklas Sørensen seems to be channeling the great Michael Rother at times with his fluid guitar notes. This really is the perfect opener for an epic album like this.

Papir have never come across as a band that feels they need to rush through a song. They start a musical journey and explore like free jazz pioneers did before them. Their music is the wandering kind. You put on headphones, drop the needle, and just go where the music takes you. V is their most expansive set yet, giving us seven worlds to explore and get lost in. And they are beautiful worlds, indeed.

8.4 out of 10

 

Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk : Passage

The newest collaboration between Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk, titled simply Passage, is a heady mix of intellectual ambient andbiz-passage euphoric electronic. You get Schnauss’ synths layered with Munk’s liquid guitar lines, sometimes with drum programming and sometimes on their own. The result is a complex and engaging record that offers the best both musicians have to offer.

If you’re at all familiar with Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk, then you should know this isn’t just another in a long line of electronic records. Schnauss is an accomplished electronic musician and composer who’s been creating beautifully ornamented electronic albums for over 20 years. His 2001 album Far Away Trains Passing By is a classic in the genre. Since 2014 Schnauss has been an official member of the iconic Tangerine Dream. Jonas Munk is an accomplished musician/producer in his own right, making electronic records under the name Manual, as well as playing guitar for the Danish rockers Causa Sui. He’s also released two records under his own name, first Pan in 2012 and Absorb Fabric Cascade in 2014. Back in 2011 these two got together for the first time and released the ethereal Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk. Six years later they have made a sequel to that collaboration. Passage does not suffer from the “sophomore slump”. In fact, it surpasses its predecessor.

Schnauss and Munk know how to make a heady mix of ambient tones and daydream-y vibes. Tracks like “Amaris”, “Genau Wie Damais”, and “Anywhere But Here” cascade like technicolor falls on some distant world. The noise coming from the speakers is hypnotic but not hallucinogenic. It’s an all-natural high that bubbles and swells from a song like the mysterious “Intervention: Sol”. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where Schnauss’ synth ends and Munk’s guitar begins. “MST” brightens up with an early 80s electronic vibe thanks to some boisterous drum programming. “Intervention: Mane” gives us plenty of woozy vibe that takes us from the dance floor to floating in space.

A great thing about this album is that these guys don’t rely on atmospheric swaths of noise alone to carry them. There are moments of blissed-out ambient, but there are also moments of almost dance floor vibes that make the album all the more engaging.

Side two’s “Ao Hinode” feels like some sort of spectral light shining down on us mere mortals, while “Spellbreaker” has an almost mid-80s Cure vibe. This track seems to morph into a million moods before we even get to the halfway point. It’s an elegant shock to the system. “Intervention: Stjerner” is a beautiful and bubbling ride of synths that seems to owe a bit of debt to Schnauss’ other gig Tangerine Dream. It’s hypnotic bliss. “Caffeine Blues” shows Munk in top form with some exquisite guitar, while Schnauss backs him up with some heady sounds. “Coastal Path” ends the album on a sun-soaked drift of cascading clouds and road trip-worthy vibes.

Passage shows two musical masters at the top of their game. Each are front and center, but never feel as if they’re vying for our attention. They come together, synth and guitar, to paint good vibes and heady, existential bliss. Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk serve only one master here, and that is the song. They follow the muse wherever she takes them. The musical mind melding of Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk, so far, is the best thing to hit my ears in 2017.

8.3 out of 10

 

New Age Music For Androids

Tim Hecker is a name I’ve heard quite a bit over the last three or four years. Ever since I fell into the musical wormhole that is Oneohtrix Point Never I’ve taken quite a bit more notice of electronic artists. Hecker’s Virgins was an album I’d jumped into and found interesting but it never quite took. I’d found the darker sounds of The Haxan Cloak to be more to my liking, though Hecker’s work meandered in my subconscious. On a post-Christmas suicide mission/shopping trip to the state capital we stopped at one of my favorite record stores, Luna Music, and I perused the soundtracks and their most impressive electronic collection. They didn’t have Virgins, but they did have Hecker’s 2016 release Love Streams. I snagged it and we were off for dinner.

Love Streams, from what I’ve read, is decidedly a shift in Hecker’s usual style. From what I remember of his previous work the sound was kind of glitchy with dreamy patches of sound and texture. It was reminiscent of Daniel Lopatin’s work, though maybe more ghostly. Love Streams is unlike anything I’ve heard. Hecker’s mix of real instrumentation with digital corruption gives the impression that you’re hearing something that is slowly disappearing into the ether. His use of voices on this record is eerie and beautiful all at once. He enlisted the help of Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson to arrange the choral parts(if you’re not familiar with Johannsson, check out his amazing score for Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.) The voices elevate the work into this almost heavenly perch, if Heaven could be psychedelic and woozy.

dsc05135“Obsidian Counterpoint” opens the album with a feeling of liquid rushing through some peculiar tunnel. The splashes of sound give off this impression of light coming from some unknown place. “Music Of The Air” is dreamy and beautiful. There’s a sense of mystery that encapsulates this song. Hecker seems to be working in some other realm. The voices seem detached, like spirits pushing through to the other side. The buzzing and drone have a lulling effect. It’s like the peace of letting go. “Bijie Dream” feels like a continuation of “Music Of The Air”, though the end of some sort of emotional resolution. “Live Leak Instrumental” opens quietly before sounding as if you’ve come across some other world. “Violet Monumental I &II” are these beautiful collages of space-y sound. They’re really rather hard to describe.

dsc05136I listen to an album like Love Streams and I’m amazed at how easily they draw me into their worlds. You feel as if you can float around inside an album like this and always find something new you didn’t notice last time. I’m also amazed at the process by which these songs are created. It’s not your typical songwriting. Where does one begin to create a song like “Up Red Bull Creek” or “Castrati Stack”? I thought that quite a bit when I first heard records like Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven and The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation; as well as earlier records like Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air and Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples Of The Moon. They seem at first to be these random noise occurrences that somehow make sense together. But after repeated listens they reveal a very intentional evolution of sound, space, and emotion. Yes, despite the lack of some sort of lyrical narrative to tell you where to go and what to feel, these albums are rich with an emotional drive. What does that say of me? That as I’ve gotten older I connect far more viscerally and emotionally with a record like Love Streams, as opposed to Rubber Soul or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? I seem to be able to connect on a spiritual level with bleeps, blips, and swaths of dense synth more so than I do with the verse/chorus/verse scenario.

Maybe I’m a replicant.

dsc05142Regardless, I’m just happy I can still connect to music in such a deep way. Whether it’s voices singing clearly “There are places I’ll remember/ All my life, though some have changed”, or if they’re detached and ghostly sounds digitally bathed, I’m feeling them and they’re moving me. Love Streams is operatic in scope and ethereal in sound. New age for androids. Do androids dream of electronic new age? I don’t know, but if they did and it existed it might sound like Love Streams.

Landing : Third Sight

Landing seems to inhabit a musical space that resides in dreams. They createlanding these musical patchworks that form a beautiful and surreal world where natural light and free thought connect and open doorways to ethereal universes. Of course, you have to be ready and primed to allow the music on Landing’s newest album Third Sight to do such magical things to your brain. If you’re not, well you may just hear nothing more than noise fading in and out. Electrical disturbances between your ears. Connecticut’s Landing don’t dabble in fluff. They’re cooking up the good stuff.

Since the mid-nineties Aaron Snow and Adrienne Snow have been making and performing music together. Their mix of ambient dream pop and pulsating, hazy space/psych rock has been the East coast’s best kept secret for 20 years. They’ve amassed a solid and loyal fan base, with one of those fans being Causa Sui guitarist and El Paraiso Records co-owner Jonas Munk. Third Sight, Landing’s newest musical adventure, is an improvisational three-song journey filled with hypnotic loops, wavering synth, and ethereal vocals in the tradition of Tangerine Dream, Kurt Stenzel’s Jodorowsky’s Dune S/T, and Rich Millman’s Night Flights. It’s a heady musical journey to say the least.

“Delusion Sound/Third Site” slowly makes its way into the light with what sounds like ancient loops hissing and ticking their way back to life before drums and guitar make their presence known. Once the vocals arrive the song morphs into a cross between Wooden Shjips and a peaceful, swirling vortex. Landing have a knack for allowing their songs to dissipate into the atmosphere as the song sees fit, which makes for a peaceful and quite beautiful fade out. “Delusion Sound” withers majestically into the sunset, “Third Site” bounces with jaunty synths, not unlike something Terry Riley might have offered up 40 years ago. The song feels like a through point to some other realm. If you’re not familiar with Rich Millman’s Night Flights you should make yourself familiar. “Third Site” taps into that ambient beauty Night Flights captures as well. “Facing South” reminds me of all those amazing song intros that Robert Smith would give his tunes in the mid to late eighties. Those pieces you wish were songs themselves. “Morning Sun” closes the album out. With its 14 minute time frame you could say the song is an epic closer, and you wouldn’t be wrong. There’s no hurry on this album, and “Morning Sun” feels like a stroll through a snow-covered forest. It’s deep thoughts overlooking a frozen lake; or waiting for the sun to disappear from the horizon. Time is of no concern here. Nearly eight minutes in and Adrienne Snow’s ethereal vocals come in, but only for a moment. She seems to be carried off on a cloud of synth and guitar haze.

Third Sight is a beautiful escape from reality. It envelopes you into a cloud of repeating motifs and escalating white noise. Landing make these kaleidoscopes of sound that feel impressionistic and avante garde at the same time. Saying it’s ambient music takes some of the heaviness and headiness this great band creates away, so I’ll call what they make dream psych. Third Sight feels and sounds like an epiphany. Simple, yet all encompassing.

8. 3 out of 10

A Soundtrack To Dreams : The Musical World of Landing

Feature photo by Susan Mclean

 

Sometimes the best thing is right in your own backyard.

What do I mean? Well take music for example. You go through phases where you feel you’ve found all the great bands you’re going to find. You’ve combed the great musical landscape over and over again and have come up empty-handed time and time again. Maybe it’s time to stop looking and just be happy with your collection of Can, NEU!, late 60s psych, and that weird collection of early electronic music. But then, just when you’ve written off ever finding something interesting and great again it happens. Like finding a needle in a haystack you’re turned on to something great. This happened to me recently. It took a Danish record label to turn my eyes and ears not to some obscure Finnish post-punk band, or some Slavic death metal. No, it just took them to turn my ears to the east. Far east?

No. Just Connecticut.

El Paraiso Records recently announced they were releasing a new album by a band called Landing. Landing, it turns out, has been putting out drone-y psych and sleepy ambient albums for close to 20 years to little or no fanfare. Recording DIY-style they’ve had many members over the years, with Aaron Snow and his wife Adrienne as the constants throughout this whole time. I headed to their Bandcamp page and was overwhelmed by not only all the music amassed by this band over the years, but the quality of the music. A mix of ambient, psych, and early 80s alternative are present and accounted for. The ambient side of stuff is very much in the vein of Tangerine Dream, Bardo Pond, and even bits of Boards of Canada; while the more song-based stuff puts me in mind of Cocteau Twins. It’s all incredibly good, which makes me feel bad because I didn’t know anything about Landing until some great guys in Denmark told me about them.

I reached out to Landing about the possibility of talking to them about their great new album called Third Sight, which is being released by El Paraiso Records on June 17th. Aaron Snow got back to me and said absolutely. So here it is.

IMG_7695J. Hubner: So tell me about Landing. How did the band come together? Who are the current members?

Aaron Snow: Landing started out as a studio project in the summer of 1998. Adrienne, Daron(Gardner), and Dick(Baldwin) joined a few months later. Dick left the group in 2004 and since that time we’ve also had synthesist Pete Baumann, who played on “Brocade”, and John Miller, who’s been in the band since late 2014.

J. Hubner: Were you all in previous bands prior to Landing?

Aaron Snow: Adrienne and I had been playing shows for a few years as a duo before forming Landing. Daron had been in a number of notable Utah indie bands including Fortynine Hudson. Dick had also been playing in a few really great bands before Landing, including Perth Amboy. John Miller has played in a number of cool bands including Titles, The Mountain Movers, and Snake Oil.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk about the music. From the very beginning with the 2001 debut ‘Circuit’ the band established a definitive sound; dreamy, hypnotic, and very spacey. Going into this band what were you all soaking your brains in musically? What artists were really influencing Landing to create the music that you were writing?

Aaron Snow: My main idea was to create music that I could fall asleep to. The idea of making “ambient” music in a rock band context was (and still is) really interesting to me. I’m a huge fan of bands like Bardo Pond, Transient Waves, Fuxa, Windy & Carl, and Yume Bitsu who have elements of pop songwriting but take it deep into the tryypr territory.

J. Hubner: There also seems to be some pop elements in the music as well.

Aaron Snow: Adrienne and I share an almost identical musical taste based in a love of Cocteau Twins, The Cure and first wave shoegaze, but Dick and Daron exposed us to a whole other palette of cool, weird stuff. Pete and John had the same effect, and I’m proud of the fact that we were (and still are) unafraid to incorporate anything we want to, musically.

J. Hubner: What’s the songwriting process like with Landing? Musically it sounds very loose and organic. Is that how the songs come together, or is there a definitive starting point, melody, or riff and the band builds from there?

Aaron Snow: Sometimes it’s entirely organic! If we’re making improvisation based stuff, someone will write a synth or guitar loop and we’ll get together to improvise around that framework. We’ll make loads of edits, layer, and overdub on top to form a “song” out of it. Rarely do we improvise and release the raw recordings.

Our other mode is pretty normal, I think. For the most part, I’ll write a guitar or bass part and we’ll build up a song around it. Daron, John, and Adrienne are the best at taking my super basic song ideas and forming something really cool out of them!

IMG_7694J. Hubner: There also seems to be two very distinct vibes with the music. You have the more pop-oriented songs and the more experimental, hallucinogenic vibe on something like ‘Oceanless’. How do you balance those two sides of the band? You’ve seemed to do it really well in your new singe ‘Morning Sun’, by the way.

Aaron Snow: Thanks so much! We don’t consciously try to balance both sides of the group, necessarily. We all love writing more conventional songs and we also love doing improvisational weird tryyyyps. For Third Sight, El Paraiso wanted us to make something improvisational for their Impetus series (which is a series that’s based in improvisation). Working within those constraints was super fun and I’m proud of the end result!

J. Hubner: Landing seems to relish in the experimental musical world.

Aaron Snow: Luckily, that’s not all we do or I’d get bored. I also love writing verse/chorus/verse pop songs and we have a few releases coming out later this year that will have a bit of the deep tryyyp mixed with pop song structures.

J. Hubner: So lets talk about your new album ‘Third Sight’ that’s coming out via El Paraiso Records. First, how did Landing get hooked up with El Paraiso?

Aaron Snow: I’ve been in touch with Jonas Munk for a number of years. It’s always been an honor that he’s into Landing because we love his work! We chat from time to time and when we released our last EP Body Diffuser he expressed interest in putting it out on El Paraiso, which was amazing! Although Body Diffuser didn’t work out (we had already pressed the tapes), we offered to do something entirely new just for them and they were into it.

J. Hubner: I can only imagine it’s been a great experience working with the label. Jonas and Jakob seem like they’re tuned into Landing’s wavelengths.

Aaron Snow: Working with Jonas and Jakob has been AMAZING. They’re two of the nicest, most engaged label people we’ve worked with. Not only did they contribute amazing artwork and layout (Jakob) and mastered the record beautifully (Jonas), but they had excellent ideas about the music as well. I love those guys!

J. Hubner: What’s changed from your debut to ‘Third Sight’ for the band songwriting-wise? Or has anything changed for you? Do you feel the creative process has become easier to tap into? Is the new album a departure from previous records?

Aaron Snow: Lots has changed over the past 18 years, obviously. The main difference from our debut is that we lost Dick Baldwin, who was the other main songwriter. His feel for weird folky intertwining cool stuff is something that I miss a lot. The creative process has remained mostly unchanged. If anything, it’s gotten a little easier to figure out what works and what’s falling flat. We know what traps to avoid and when to abandon an idea.

Third Sight is a little bit of a callback to older Landing records like Oceanless, Brocade and Fade In/Fade Out while still being quite a bit different. We’re obscuring stuff a lot less than we used to, I think. Adrienne’s vocals, especially, keep getting better and better so we decided to make them front and center in a way that we wouldn’t have in the past.

Our last two LP’s, Landing and Wave Lair, struck out in a more electronic vein. While I’m still proud of those albums, I feel like since the addition of John Miller, we sound less like a studio project and more like an organic band again. Body Diffuser was our first step back in that direction and “Third Sight” is in a similar vein. Later this year, we’re releasing Complekt which will focus more on all aspects of our sound- both tryyyps and “songs”. I couldn’t be happier with where we are right now!

J. Hubner: Was ‘Third Sight’ self-produced? Landing seems to be a real DIY kind of band.

Aaron Snow: Landing is and always has been entirely DIY. Before John joined, I recorded, mixed, and in most cases mastered the albums. Lucky for us, John is an outstanding recording engineer and we’ve taken full advantage of the situation, which is why our new stuff sounds so much better! Being DIY is important to us. We always record at home.

J. Hubner: What’s the current live situation?

Aaron Snow: Since John joined, we’re a pretty solid live band (if I do say so myself)! Recording has always been the most important aspect of what we do, so we don’t put much thought into how we’ll play the songs live while we’re making them. This means that we’re often not able to play certain songs, but with effects becoming more versatile and looping pedals, we’re able to play songs that we couldn’t have in the old days.

IMG_7693J. Hubner: What’s touring like for Landing? Will you guys be playing some shows to promote Third Sight?

Aaron Snow: Touring is a challenge for a band like us. We don’t make money off the band, so we have jobs and responsibilities that keep us from doing long tours, unfortunately. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a little touring if not this summer, then next. Our shows are pretty cool, I think! We LOVE playing live and meeting cool people. We try to play songs from all aspects and eras of Landing, so you never know what you’ll hear.

J. Hubner: What’s the rest of 2016 look like?

Aaron Snow: The rest of 2016 will be busy for us!! We’re releasing another full length called Complekt and a split cassette with the amazingly great band Thought Forms on These Are Not Records this summer/fall.

J. Hubner: Any chance of an El Paraiso Festival with Landing, Causa Sui, Mythic Sunship, Papir, and maybe some solo sets from Jonas Munk and Jakob Skott? I’d make the trek from Indiana to the East Coast for that.

Aaron Snow: An El Parasio fest sounds GREAT. I feel like they should hold it in Europe and fly us over for it.(laughs) We are SO PSYCHED to join the El Paraiso family along with so many amazing musicians! It’s a total honor.


So let’s get that El Paraiso Fest locked in Jakob and Jonas and I’ll work on getting some tickets to Copenhagen for the wife and I. In the meantime, head over to Landing’s Bandcamp page and get lost in their musical world. Then hit up El Paraiso Records and preorder Third Sight. It’s out on June 17th. And keep your eyes and ears peeled for Landing’s Complekt later this year.