Land Observations  ‘The Grand Tour’  (Mute)  28th July 2014


Revisiting the Roman’s industrious road network, artist and guitar sculptor of meta-textural travelogues, James Brooks once again soundtracks a peregrination that begins with the familiar surroundings of his London address and proceeds across Europe to the one time important capital of the Western Roman empire, the Italian city of Ravenna.

On his previous excursion, Roman Roads IV – XI, Brooks’ meticulously planned journeys, however minimal and delicate, exude the beauty of motion: Gently progressing or chugging along in harmonic contemplation, each section of his placable road trip, moves on ever forward to a final destination.

Continuing to absorb those landscapes and some new ones, with a cycle of both looped trebly and pronounced bass notes, plus a bed of subtly picked congruous melodics and resonating chimes, Brooks takes the pastoral equivalent of the motorik route. Whereas the Autobahn travelled celebrations of kraftwerk or the repetitive hypnotism of Michael Rothar’s backward bending psychedelics and choppy guitar licks pointed towards the future, The Grand Tour treads a well-worn man-made and historically rich highway. It could be said that brooks has a foot in both eras: the past and present simultaneously if you like.


The musical accompaniment is only part of the Land Observations methodology, Brooks by extension incorporating a show of postcard inspired artwork – which can be seen further extended in the featured Phil Coy video – and geometric network visuals, all inspired by the layouts and routes of the journeys he maps out aurally.

There are some detours on this return trip of sorts, as Brooks cycles through the ‘Flatlands And The Flemish Roads’ of the lowlands – the flattened layout of Belgium reflected in the strident, though, serene pace of the methodical rhythmic time keeper -, ascends one of the highest mountain routes in the Swiss Alps, on the gently applied rocking motion of the magnificent climb, ‘From The Heights Of The Simplon Pass’, and waltzes through the Austrian capital, on the sacrosanct Baroque ‘Ode To Viennese Streets.

For those accustomed to Brooks’ multilayered loops and adroit deft touches, there are also the odd piqued moments, usually introductions, of gnarled, almost post-punk, strutting. But these are fleeting and though they never break with convention enough to burst out into song.

For everyone else, newcomers alike, the Grand Tour is pleasing and timeless, if not picturesque, journey through the South East of England and Western Europe.


If this has indeed drawn your attention and intrigued you enough to investigate further, Head over to God Is In The TV for our previous interview with Brooks on the release of his Roman Roads LP in 2012.


Land Observations - The Grand Tour on Monolith Cocktail


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