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Githead - Landing

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Artist: Githead

Album: Landing

Label: Swim~

Review date: Nov. 9, 2009

When the quartet first gathered for a 2004 live show, the members of Githead didn’t intend to become an actual band. The outing worked so well, they felt they needed to give it a go. Now on their third album, the group has moved past their initial surprise and onto the business of progressing. On paper, the foursome seemed somewhat unlikely, with Wire’s Colin Newman and his wife Malka Spigel of Minimal Compact hooking up with the latter’s former bandmate Max Franken and and Scanner’s Robin Rimbaud. While Minimal Compact’s art-rock drew from punk bands like Wire, they were more goth-inclined, while Rimbaud is of course the most surprising member here.

Landing takes Githead’s previous albums and distills them, oddly enough, into "Art Pop,” as one of those albums was titled. Perhaps the plan is telegraphed by the fact that the band has abandoned the strict minimalism of their earlier album covers, instead directly illustrating the title this time around, with a photo of a plane. Like the cover, the songs are straightforward, yet still present questions.

Their earlier krautrock drive – really just shorthand for rhythms derived from those pioneered by Neu! – is still here. Franken’s drums and Spigel’s bass provide an almost mechanical framework for Newman and Rimbaud’s guitars to do their thing. The layered guitars often support each other in nearly symphonic ways, bringing to mind My Bloody Valentine and even (thanks to the up-front production) bands like Curve; see the title track, which could be a slowed-down outtake from Doppleganger. It’s the late 1980s and early ‘90s, however, that come to mind immediately: Stereolab, Bolshoi, and Wire’s own Ideal Copy.

Spigel’s dispassionate vocals, chanted atop the motorik rhythms, make Stereolab comparisons easy. The music here is harder-edged, though, with guitars that buzz and churn while taking turns adding melodic chimes and accents. The formula carries with it the risk of the songs blurring together, and to some extent that comes to pass, but further listens begin to tease out each song’s distinct elements. A few songs, like "Ride," are exceptions to the rule; in its case, a more spacious tune with forbidding vocals and a repeated, twisting guitar motif rather than dense chordal cascades.

Make no mistake, tolerance for repetition is needed to appreciate the album: it’s the unwinding of the guitars that provide the evolution here, combined with some memorable vocals. Landing may take a number of listens to begin to sink in, but when it does, it stays with you.

By Mason Jones

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