Landing (11.09, Swim)
For: Wire, Neu!, Ride
Byline: Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.
John Lennon once said, “Blues is a chair”. For all intents and purposes he was right. A compositionally sound, tried and true, functional framework that provides both a cradle for musical ideas as well as a jumping off point for embellishment and improvisation. For 90 % of the rock and roll world this analogy works. For Githead’s fifth studio album I would suggest a more apropos analogy, no offense to John Lennon. For Landing, “Krautrock is a chair” explains a lot. Probably not as insightful, but the heavily syncopated, droning drum work draw irresistible comparisons to influential krautrock group, NEU! and their signature “Motorik” drumming pattern. Githead builds from the ground up, composing layers of swirling shoegaze guitars and electronic programming , atop the driving repetition of Malka Spigel’s bass and Max Franken’s drumming.
Githead consists of Wire’s Colin Newman, electronic producer Robin Rimbaud (Scanner), and Malka Spigel and Max Franken of Israeli post-punks, Minimal Compact. What started as a studio experiment eventually spawned five full-length albums, a tour, and appearances at several festivals. Not bad for a band with no long term career plans. However, a supergroup with such lauded membership need not make plans too far in advance. Considering the pedigree of Githead one would assume that an avante-garde experimental album would be the only foreseeable output for this quartet (especially in light of Wire’s more recent works) but fortunately 2007’s Art-Pop and Landing favor straight-ahead pop structures with experimental tendencies over potentially more dodgy noodling.
Landing starts with a test-shot, a sort of introduction for the uninitiated. If you can hang with four-plus minutes of Spigel and Franken’s repetitive bass-lines falling in lock-step behind Franken’s 4-4 drumming while Rimbauld and Newman pile on their effects-laden guitar meanderings with nary a tempo change, all sans vocals, you are invited to partake. If not, no hard feelings, this stuff is not for everyone. But, make it past “Faster” and an entire world unfolds before you. Githead’s repetition allows for endless, structured experimentation on a gravitationally held theme that keep Landing earth bound. In keeping with the chair analogy, Githead’s rhythm section both rests on and elaborates the Motorik percussion model. Newman and Rimbauld’s guitar work recalls a slightly more stacatto My Bloody Valentine and recalls fondly the seeming endless wave of 80’s shoegaze bands washing up on the American shore, with a stylistic tip of the hat to Curve, Ride and most importantly Swervedriver. It is as impossible to discuss Githead without mentioning their shoegaze tendencies as it would be without mentioning their krautrock leanings.
Spigel’s stark, monotone delivery on tracks like “Ride” and “Take Off” display a cool sense of detachment–a robotic extension of her frigid bass lines. In fact no one really sings on Landing, Newman and Spigel’s marriage vows extend beyond fidelity to the realm of rhythmic vocal cadence. Imagine Ladytron’s Helen Marnie filling in for Newman on Wire’s seminal “Pink Flag” and you will get the idea of what Malka Spigel is working with. Newman’s snarky British bite shows up on “Over the Limit” and “Transmission Tower”, otherwise it is Spigel who has the show.
Githead has been a blessing in a month of otherwise bleak musical prospects. With so much amazing music released and digested in 2009 it is nice to have a band finish the year with a bang.