While 2020 was a defining year for the most obvious reasons, Manchester-based Aging and Liverpool’s Land Trance went beyond the natural concerns.
Jazz collective, Aging, released Sentenced to Love, which saw the five-piece very much atop of their creative arc. Sentenced to Love contained the kind of noir-inspired muzak that wouldn’t look out of place in the bellows of a smoke-filled Berlin bar frequented by the local bourgeois; or, indeed, a swathe of characters from a Philip Kerr novel.
Then there’s Land Trance. Consisting of Ex-Easter Island Head’s Benjamin D. Duvall and Andrew PM Hunt (the latter also of Dialect who released his latest LP earlier this year, Under~Between), 2020 saw the pair unleash the year’s finest record to emerge from Merseyside with their debut album, First Séance.
An album that reached beyond the terrains of Ex-Easter Island Head’s prepared guitars and rigid percussion, First Séance was a fragmented multi-layered representation of sound design, oscillating between gentle acoustic-based drones and warped sonic arrangements. It was a record that provided the light through the murky tunnels that we found ourselves in during 2020.
With arguably their finest recordings committed to tape yet, Aging’s multi-instrumentalist and Tombed Visions label owner, David McLean, combines with Duvall and Hunt for their debut collaboration cut, Embassy Nocturnes.
Alongside the trio is Liverpool drummer, Joel C. Murray, who adds his feverish, sinewy rhythms from behind the drum kit. While there are guest appearances from fellow Ex-Easter Island Head member Benjamin Fair (piano, synthesiser), as well as Christen Hutchinson (double bass) and Nick Hunt (trumpet), Murray joins Duvall (sampler, shahi baaja, bamboo marimba, zither, drum machine), Hunt (piano, synthesiser, saxophone, drum machine), and McLean (saxophone, guitar, piano) as the quartet that do most of the heavy lifting for Embassy Nocturnes.
Recorded in the basement of Liverpool’s former Brazilian embassy, Embassy Nocturnes unlocks the gates that lead to previously uninhabited enclaves.
With opening composition, Shattered Rooms, and later with The Ornamented Lock we are subjected to misty atmospherics that sound like the forgotten offspring of Bohren and Der Club of Gore and Angelo Badalamenti. Caked with an extra layer of mystery beyond that Lynchian charm, it’s like being ushered by benevolent spirits to the basement of the Black Lodge.
Away from that and Under Chandeliers possesses echoes of the late ’90s/early ’00s improv’ balladry from The Necks prior to their full descent into the vortex of doom jazz.
Creeping Moonlight dances on the fringes of Mi Media Naranja-era Labradford, while Findings combines elements of all four of these experimental touchstones, but with a thrilling new vitality.
With Lights in the Driveway capturing the pulsating allure of Ex-Easter Island Head, anchored by by Murrary’s sharp, urgent percussion, the swelling drones of Findings II feel like cracked sunlight through the trees. In short, it’s purely majestic.
And that feeling doesn’t stop when we arrive at the closing composition, New Opiate; a subtle, fragmented opus containing the kind of emotional subtlety only carefully plotted brass arrangements can provide. It’s the kind of sound that reaches us from another universe, ending Embassy Nocturnes in a beautifully emphatic way.
While referencing experimental purveyors of the past two decades, Aging and Land Trance add their own tints, shades, and tones to this vivid canvass. So much so that it’s one they could very well call their own.
In a year that has seen many collaborations break through glass ceiling, undoubtedly, Embassy Nocturnes reaches even further beyond. Quite simply, it’s up there with the best of them, as Aging and Land Trance have provided a new cadence that sounds like nothing else in 2021.
Embassy Nocturnes is out now via Tombed Visions. Purchase from Bandcamp.