Living in East London, experimental music scientist, James Brooks, aka Land Observations takes inspiration from the geography around him for his debut album Roman Roads IV – XI.
In true minimalist and Kosmiche spirit, Land Observations’ debut album Roman Roads IV – XI is a series of sparse, motoric electric guitar instrumentals, responding to the history and geography of ‘roads’ and more specifically, the ‘Roman Roads’ that existed, across parts of Britain, Europe and further afield. i-D online took a road trip with the illusive (and often running through woodlands) man behind the music to find out how each well-travelled path inspired his mesmeric sound constellations.
Kingsland Road To Ermine Street
Whilst living on the edge of Kingsland Rd, with its history as the Roman road called Ermine St, I became focused on the concept and history of Roman roads. Riding home on the bus I would be on this grand, straight road and be aware that there was something about it that was very potent and inspirational. That was the start of the concept; to produce a series of recordings based around particular ‘roads’ in the world. Before writing any of the instrumentals, it became important that I tried to research specific roads characteristics; history, usage, length, geography and terrain and so on, so I could try and embed that into the recordings. Some of the roads are still important routes and have become absorbed into the contemporary infrastructure of autostradas, motorways, or autobahns. Others, have been partially reclaimed by nature, becoming pathways or traces that are only faintly holding on to their past status.
In simple terms, the album is about momentum and movement. Using a rhythmic/ motoric approach generated by just an electric VI string guitar. I wanted and needed this limitation to focus it to a more acute sonic identity. It’s about imposing the limitation on myself of just using the guitar to layer, becoming a guitar ensemble, if you like. But saying that, I don’t play guitar in a virtuoso way – it’s more about approaching the guitar as a rhythmic device of pulses, flicks and stabs that hint at bigger melodies.
A Roman Mile Is One Thousand Paces
With my visual art practice, amongst other things, I make a lot of drawings and serial works, which are underpinned by repetition along with the time of their making, drawing as drumming or rhythmic guitar playing. For the debut album, I have produced a series of ‘road drawings’ looking at roads as abstract symbols. These will be reproduced in the album artwork. Plus, for an upcoming show in a Paris gallery, I‘ve started to develop more serial text works using postcards, so the artwork actually travels a particular journey.
Land Observations’ debut album Roman Roads VI – XI is released on Mute on the3rd September. Also catch Land at Café Oto on the 13th September.
Introduction: Milly McMahon
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