Land Trance is the new collaboration between Liverpool-based musicians Andrew P.M Hunt (Dialect, Raft of Trash, Outfit) and Benjamin D. Duvall (Ex-Easter Island Head, Whistling Arrow) and after years of creating with other projects the stars have finally aligned where the pair released their brilliant debut album, First Séance, earlier this year.
Recorded in various locations, including a space overlooking Concert Square, First Séance is a pulsating experience, ignited by humid drones and quiet melodic ambience. The influences behind these recordings are far-reaching, spearheaded by the album’s epicentre that is Chilean Miners.
First Séance is a journey exploring every corner of the experimental music landscape.
We had a chance to ask Duvall and Hunt some questions during the lockdown period, two weeks after the release of First Séance. Sadly, given the current circumstances we were unable to meet in person to conduct this talk, however after some back and forth we’re happy to present the final results.
Sun 13: Obvious question, how are you coping with the current lockdown?
Land Trance: “It’s all been a bit Ballardian to be honest – drinks in the garden under the sun, contemplating a global catastrophe from a position of relative safety and comfort whilst time seems to stretch out endlessly, responsibilities melting away.
“There’s 13 of us in the house we share together so we’ve not been going out much to avoid the potential for illness spreading through the group. An uneasy time in spite of the position of privilege we’re in.”
S13: Has the current circumstances impinged on your abilities to be creative?
LT: “It’s hard to know what context creative work should exist in right now and in what context it will exist in the future so it’s been tough trying to write new material. We’ve made a lot of progress in reviewing, editing and cataloguing older material for Land Trance and our other projects.
“We’ve also been working on two upcoming collaborative recordings: one with the wonderful Philip Jeck and the other with Manchester-based multi-instrumentalist and Tombed Visions label boss David McLean, who just released an excellent album under the Aging moniker. Aside from this, I’ve has been learning trombone and Andy has been working with midi feedback and more process-based electro acoustic music.”
S13: Can you give us some background on Land Trance – how it began and evolved?
LT: “We’ve been friends for about 14 years at this point and we’ve been doing loads of music in tandem with each other the whole time–sharing bandmates, practice rooms, going to the same shows–as well as sharing basically our whole social group, houses and life experiences.
“This is the first time we’ve purposefully worked together and it feels like this is the right time in our creative lives to do so. It has evolved very organically – the very first session where we played together has ended up on the album which seems to illustrate that it’s felt like a good fit from the start.”
S13: I know that some of the recording spaces involved working close to Concert Square. Interesting juxtaposition given the weekend nightlife in particular. Were parts recorded at night in conjunction with this external environment?
LT: “Yes. The title track is the aforementioned first meeting and was recorded live, one microphone in a small bedroom studio on Wood Street overlooking Concert Square.
“The juxtaposition of small very intimate sounds–zither, cheap keyboard with built in speakers, small bells and an oscillator phone app–against the bass vibrations of multiple club sound systems echoing down the street and rattling the windows was quite a striking dynamic to work with.
“Regulate was also done in this environment, late at night, and there’s a nocturnal quality permeating many of the recordings.”
S13: With all of your projects, you seem to be exploring the extremes of the inner and outer limits of life. Overall, First Séance, to me at least, feels like a perfect escapism record. Perhaps even a slight dystopian quality whereby it’s a soundtrack to get lost in and just disappear from all the bullshit of everyday life (even before Covid-19). Did politics have any influences on the project?
LT: “Each of the tracks feels like a distinct environment, but not necessarily an environment to get blissfully lost in and the listener has agency to put their own meaning or narrative on them. There’s perhaps an inherently political bend to making weird music in the sense that you’re trying to un-think the regular way of doing things.
“The record and the material is not political but we as individuals are certainly more politically aware and engaged as we navigate our thirties. We see the record as more of a personal reflection on memory, aligned within a broadly psychedelic musical trajectory.”
S13: The album was released a couple of weeks ago. Was there any question of pushing back the release due to the current situation?
LT: “No and the current situation seems to have validated digital releases more. It seems like a good time to be releasing a record needing time and space to be fully explored.”
S13: Do you consider Liverpool being a direct influence to the work you both do? The reason I ask is because there aren’t many local artists with such a creative scope than your projects. Your influences seem to be more far-reaching. Would that be a fair suggestion?
LT: “Liverpool has a massive indirect influence as a city in terms of living costs, size, venues and the other people living here. There is–without wanting to lean too heavily on this cliché–something of an outsider spirit compared to being in the capital which can’t help but play into the sorts of music you want to put out there.
“Likewise, our shared upbringing in the Liverpool DIY/experimental scene since the early 2000s has greatly shaped our outlook. Musically speaking our audible influences, tastes and outlook are quite international facing as a result of the acts we’ve been exposed to in the city through the likes of Class A Audio, Meshuggy, I Am Your Barber, Engine and a whole load of other promoters and venues who’ve invited lots of European/United States DIY weirdo music to play here.
“Also groups like aPAtT and Monobrow have been big formative influences in terms of exploding the form of what a DIY performance could be – there’s been a lot of one-off performances lying somewhere between high concept and a good laugh amongst mates that have really created fertile ground for thinking about what’s possible live and on record.”
S13: Going back to the vast array of influences, Chilean Miners sparks to mind. It’s a simple idea on paper, but it seems you are always looking to span your creative influences as wide-spanning as possible.
LT: “We’re just following our curious ears and shared/disparate influences. Everything we do we feel sits in the broad continuum of psychedelic music. We enjoy the collage effect of making connections between sounds and compositional strategies that might not appear to be immediately related.”
S13: In Ben’s case, I’d say that it’s one of your most accessible pieces of music released so far. Do you see the track as a centre piece to First Séance?
LT: “Not a centrepiece as such but it has a clear emotional meaning whilst some of the other pieces operate in a much more ambiguous space. Chilean Miners had a long incubation. The voice used is from a news broadcast in 2010, when the last of the trapped men were rescued from the Copiapó mine in Chile.
“The last man was rescued on the same night that we learned the news of the death of a dear friend. It always seemed to me a poignant juxtaposition, glimpsing this celebratory, life-affirming rescue on the TV whilst numbed with shock from a personal tragedy.
“There is such a note of hope and love in the spoken words, rendered even more moving by the evident emotion in the voice of the translator who is speaking them. It has had a hold on me for a long time now and Andy and myself had in fact worked together on trying to make an installation piece using the audio about five years ago but it didn’t quite work.
“When we started working as Land Trance we thought we’d see if we could do the audio justice and so we built the track around it.”
S13: Then there’s a A Raft. It really has a cinematic quality to it along with other tracks on the album. Are film scores something either of you are interested in for future recordings?
LT: “Yes we are interested! The video for Transcript was made in a very similar way to our music – we decided a palette and a way through, it was edited quite intuitively to a rhythm. It reminded us that there’s a lot of ‘Mise en scene’ in our music – a framed aspect to the way we ‘stage’ sounds in the audio picture. The processes and elements of cinema – collage, characters, settings seems to inform our work rather than the music itself being typically cinematic.
“We’ve also just completed an album of library music for KPM/EMI with Ex-Easter Island Head, so we’re making our first steps into making music for the visual medium.
S13: Back to the album and I also find that builds to quite a euphoric conclusion. There’s a lot of melody involved and it seems to be more prominent towards the back-end of the album particular with Valarde and the title track. Was that an intention or did it just work out that way?
LT: “The sequencing came after the material for the most part but we always had Yardang in mind for the last track. The material was made to work regardless of sequence or context and was then fitted together.
“Sequencing and making a record as a whole has been an important aspect – none of our projects is just ‘tracks’, it’s always a longer narrative. Certain tracks suggest a point in a journey so you work with that and play around until it has an internal logic of its own.”
S13: On the other side of this current pandemic, are there any plans to play live?
LT: “We’d like to, but we’re not sure how yet.”
S13: What else have you got coming up?
LT: “There are a bunch of recording in the pipeline – Under ~ Between by Dialect (Hunt‘s solo project), the Aging and Land Trance record mentioned earlier, ongoing work with Philip Jeck, a new Ex-Easter Island Head studio record and live set, and of course more Land Trance to come.”
First Séance is available now via Dense Truth.