Land Observations’ fascination with history and geography has led to the forthcoming concept album The Grand Tour, a solo-guitar, instrumental homage to a well-worn path of enlightenment through Europe, wherein the heights of fashion, nature, history, and architecture can be absorbed. The latest single from the album is “Return to Ravenna,” which closes out the album with fitting synergy. Ravenna, a Northern Italian town known primarily for its enchanting religious architecture, serves as the perfect subject for James Brooks’s almost architectural songwriting. The track kicks in with a simple, looping motif over which layer upon layer of motorik overdubs pile upon each other — some rhythmic, others melodic — until, like an ancient cathedral, the foundational bricks give way to soaring, often breathtaking spires.
But it’s not just those gentle squalls that ring out at the climax that leave you breathless; it’s also the internal features of the track, which act like melodic runs dipping in and out of the song’s otherwise steady flow, serving as the interior frescoes and stained glass that give ancient churches their real, lasting distinctiveness. At once micro and macro, a tune like “Return to Ravenna” feels not only like you are part of the building, but also like you are passing through it. Then, as the layers start to strip back down to the bare-boned foundations with which they began, you’ve come full circle and fade out, like the last glance over your shoulder before exiting the cathedral, a fitting final chapter on an album that serves as a paean to a road of enlightenment.
Land Observations’ The Grand Tour is out July 29 on Mute Records.