Trust the title: this is music for nighttime. It shouldn’t matter where you are, whether you’re looking longingly out a darkened window with headphones on, or you’re sitting at an L-shaped counter in front of a soda jerk in a 1940s diner, or you’re in the driver’s seat as you cruise the downtown strip Bickle-style, glowering at the happy adjusted people who surround you. Or maybe you imagine you’re some sort of late-pomo noir detective — someone out of a Paul Auster novel — with pocketed hands and bad posture under a rainslicked fedora. These are the media that have inspired L A N D’s debut album Night Within. (“City of Glass,” the instrumental version of “Nothing Is Happening Everywhere,” is the title of the first book in Auster’s New York Trilogy.) If their influences say anything about them, the group should know how to establish a nocturnal atmosphere. And they evidently do, creating a sum-of-parts, sleazy, cold slink down dark alleys, perhaps too reliant on genre but forgivably so for shaping mood with such precision.
Night Within is ambitious for a first release. L A N D, led by the duo Daniel Lea and Matthew Waters, not only managed to secure the very talented Iceland-based composer Ben Frost to mix the project — the album is “sculpted in Reykjavik,” as if out of the very glaciers and crust — but also snagged David Sylvian of the band Japan to add vocals to a track. As you’d expect from Frost’s involvement, Night Within is wrapped in a fog of punchy, pulsating bass, sliced through intermittently by the snarl of saxophones, the bleat of baritones, the occasional blustering clarinet with something to prove. When Sylvian, the solitary vocal presence, finally gets his turn on the sixth song over a stuttering Talk Talk sample, he ditches New Romantic camp for somber longing. His voice, despite a shrugging, slowish tempo, is a much-needed resuscitation, saving the record from stagnation just as the threat looms greatest.
Sometimes Night Within sounds too much like a soundtrack to a non-existent film. If Howard Shore and Metric hadn’t scored the new Cronenberg adaptation of the DeLillo novel Cosmopolis, this could be plunked unedited into the later night scenes with no incongruity; there’s even (coincidentally?) a track by that name here. But this isn’t necessarily a negative. The music is telling its own story, sneaking intersensorially into the visual to hijack fluttering eyelids and instill its own sinister narrative. Find something else to listen to during the heatshimmer of noonday sun: if there was ever strictly night-appropriate music, this is it.