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Peter James, Landfall

June 30, 2012

Peter James is known for crafting soundscapes that manage to be both vast and intimate at the same time. He knows the power imparted by speaking softly but intently, and puts that knowledge to extremely good use in Landfall. The first of the three tracks here, “Relocation,” sets the stage as James unfurls breath-slowing pads with an underlying sense of expectancy. Something in the flow feels like it’s sloping very gently upward, patiently striving for some unspoken thing. This moves into the stunning 35-minute title track. It opens very quietly on misty drones that impart an uncertain sense of comfort. There’s the feeling of being lulled into a soothed complacency, but for a reason. A distant, almost metallic clatter strikes infrequently, rippling this well-packed fog bank of drone. James dismisses it after several minutes, but its memory persists in the way you wait to hear/feel it again, as if it were a waypoint in this wandering that you’d rather not do without. It returns, and effectively so, toward the end of the track. I could loop this track alone over and over and be content. The layers are full and in constant motion, and its emotional sense–another area in which James excels–is tactile. The closing track, “Separation,” begins on the shadowy side, ominous drones and cold-wind whispers coming from all sides. James nails his theme here; this is like a softer-edged take on isolationist ambient. It is vast and shot through with a sense of emptiness, but never heads toward the unpleasant grimness of dark work. You are alone, and you know it, and you’re left to wonder how and why. Landfall is a disc that works it way osmotically into your system. It’s textbook ambient, written in James’ expert terminology. In headphones the understated complexities shine. Given low-volume, looped command of a space, it shows its quiet and undeniable persuasion. You will be affected by Landfall.

Kudos also to Ann Schmitz for the darkly gorgeous photography that graces the release. When you go to the Relaxed Machinery site to check out this disc, take a moment to open the wallpaper link to take it in.

Available from Relaxed Machinery.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2012 1:13 pm

    Peter James is inexorably taking the genre into new territory with ‘Landfall’—possibly even redefining what that genre is! Unlike so much modern ‘ambience’, the world that James evokes is often subtly uncomfortable, and the album title perfectly captures the unnerving experience of stepping ashore in alien land…

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