The Dividing Island
n appreciative nod goes to the artists who still work to inject some sense of mystery into their music. It’s the information age, and trying to get anything done without bleeding information all over the Internet is difficult, if not impossible. The members of Lansing-Dreiden have done okay so far; their identities are kept secret (ala The Residents) and their music has been performed by two “live incarnations,” presumably something like sanctioned cover bands (ala Mission of Burma in the late '80s). Technically, the group doesn’t even consider itself a band so much as an art collective working indiscriminately in various mediums.
And yet Lansing-Dreiden’s first album, The Incomplete Triangle, sounded nothing like the sort of bloated art project one would imagine. It was remarkably concise, punctual even, fresh despite its obvious homage to the 1980s, and accessible to boot.
The band’s new album, Dividing Island, first and foremost, is only accessible in bits and not at all concise. The difference is clear right from the creaking-wood strings in the opening track, the sort of extravagance that would have been ruled out on Triangle. The production aesthetic is similar to Triangle, but the whole affair shifts back in time from the reference points Triangle grasped so firmly. Triangle was precise; Island is indistinct. Triangle was tightly-constructed; Island is loose and rambling. Triangle organized its moods into complete and equal sections; Island makes no attempt to do so.
Take, for instance, “One for All,” which could be clumsily described as the sort of spacey jazz-rock that might result if Joe Zawinul joined a post-punk band. And “Two Extremes” is anything but: it’s as gentle as any obligatory folky dream-tune on any long-forgotten slab of ‘70s post-jazz noodling. At one point, my roommate asked if I was listening to Pink Floyd, and when I stopped laughing, I realized it wasn’t an entirely unfair comparison. If Triangle was a frosty pitch-perfect trip through the ‘80s in three exact parts, Island is more of a sloppy slalom through the ‘70s.
And, as you might expect, there are highs and lows. Despite its unfortunate attempt at metal, “Dethroning the Optimyth,” there are moments when it does gentle menace well: “Part of the Promise” and “A Line You Can Cross” ominously phase and overlap sonic bric-a-brac as well as anything on Triangle, and the vocals still sound like a wry Englishman singing from the other end of a drainpipe. One blanche-worthy slice of progidelica doesn’t spoil an otherwise interesting effort from the Dresdies—any disappointment relative to the immaculate debut is certainly worth it just to know this mysterious collective wasn’t some strange dream after all.
Hear a song from The Dividing Island here.
Reviewed by: Erick Bieritz
Reviewed on: 2006-06-26