Land Observations, aka the musician and artist, James Brooks, has announced a brand new album release, The Grand Tour, out on July 29th 2014, watch the trailer for the new album. The Grand Tour is the follow up to 2012’s critically acclaimed debut album, Roman Roads IV-XI. Where that was concerned with the roads of communication and conquest that stretched across the former Roman Empire and Republic, the new album creates an imaginary travelogue through Western, Central and Southern Europe with reference to the historic Grand Tour.
The album was recorded on the edge of the Bavarian Alps on just one electric 6-string guitar – exploring the potential of the instrument in relation to layers, rhythm, melody and timbre.
The recording process utilized a selection of vintage amplifiers and studio equipment, intentionally enjoying the warmth of analogue tape for assisting to create immersive pastoral motorik.
Historically The Grand Tour was a traditional rite of passage for wealthy University graduates, finding popularity in the 18th century, this was the beginning of cultural travel and tourism as we have come to know it. The tour’s itinerary was designed to expand minds through experiencing the treasures of European art, music, architecture and topography.
Wistful, melancholic but with optimism for the journey ahead, the album opens with “On Leaving The Kingdom For The Well-Tempered Continent,” addressing the route from London, through the Kentish countryside on the Old Dover Road, towards the port and crossing the channel to Northern France.
From there, the landscape gives inspiration to the speed, pace and momentum of the journey – the swift “Flatlands And The Flemish Roads” mirroring the horizontal unimpeded journey of the lowlands. Slowing into “From The Heights Of The Simpson Pass” as we climb up one of the highest mountain routes in the Swiss Alps; sweeping down and across to the majestic “Nice To Turin” and meandering the elegant Strasses of Vienna, with its ornate, baroque architecture and streets infused with its musical history on “Ode To Viennese Streets.”
The record’s The Grand Tour continues through its itinerary to the cities of Venice, Florence, Rome before finally heading back. On “Return To Ravenna”, a beginning and an end is at once signaled. It’s the end of the tour, and the beginning of the journey home – a track with an intentional reference to Land Observations’ debut, album, where Brooks celebrated “Via Flaminia,” the Roman road between Rome and Ravenna, once a major city in classical culture.
As such, the album is not concerned with arrival; its concern is with the journey, the experiences, the momentum of travel through re-imagining a grand tour.
The route that Brooks has taken to reach Land Observations began with Appliance, Brooks was a founding member and guitarist in the band. Appliance ended in 2003, but before that released four acclaimed albums via Mute.
When Appliance disbanded, Brooks took a Masters degree in fine art and has exhibited in galleries such as the Tate Britain, London, Contemporary Art Society, London, Galerie Laurent Mueller, Paris, Galerie Martina Detterer, Frankfurt, Domobaal, London, but music remained a constant throughout. In fact, it was while listening to lots of solo guitar, such as John Fahey, or the artists on and influenced by his Takoma label, that Brooks realized that any future endeavors would see him tread a lone path: “I didn’t want to be in a band any more and I became aware that a solo guitar could fill the sound.”
After an initial Land Observations EP for Enraptured Records and a performance at Mute’s Short Circuit Festival at the Roundhouse in May 2011, Brooks “realized that I wanted to take it further and make a long-playing record” which culminated in 2012’s release, Roman Roads IV-XI, described by MOJO as “metronomic intensity” and by Q as having an “understated, fragile beauty.”
Since its release, Brooks guested on Simon Fisher Turner’s score for the BFI restoration of The Epic Of Everest (dir. Captain John Noel, 1924) and has performed the score live at the London Film Festival world premiere and Trento Film Festival in Italy.