- an invitation
- orlando & tiresias
- the taste of the room
- a ballad - for you dear
- this - i
- this - ii
- memory draws the map we follow
- as I wait for the lion
- stay going nowhere
- as we sway
Even if, in addition to writing, playing and singing his own material, Jodie Landau had not brought on board an established producer, three other L.A.-based composers, six chamber musicians, and an entire Icelandic women's chorus, you of all things would still be a most unusual debut.
For one thing, Landau's voice is a most unusual instrument. At once raw and exposed, pure and unerringly precise, his vocals are able to veer between choirboy cantillation, torch-singer croon, and full-throated bellow without losing a character that is unmistakably his own. And his compositional aesthetic—which manages to encompass both the unpretentious bounce of popular song and moments of ominous stasis, setting his own, emotionally intimate lyrics or penning purely instrumental interludes—demands that elasticity.
His other instruments are a little out of the ordinary, as well: in addition to singing, Landau beats and bows on a small battery of percussion instruments. But as a vocalist, a composer, and as a percussionist, Landau insinuates himself effortlessly into every layer of music-making on the album. The truly remarkable thing about this project is how naturally Landau brings together the large circle of collaborators responsible for making this album happen. Simply put, Jodie Landau plays well with others.
The genesis of this project came when Landau first heard that Icelandic women's choir, Graduale Nobili, perform in Los Angeles as part of Björk's Biophilia project. Astonished by their technical range, he immediately wanted to collaborate, and after the opportunity arose to forge a personal connection with members of the ensemble, he began the push to create a recording that would take advantage of their unique sound. In practice, that means we hear a chorus offering everything from high-lying, angelic harmonies to percussive vocal effects reminiscent of Balinese monkey-chant.
Landau found the rest of his collaborators a good deal closer to home, among the musical family he has cultivated within the Los Angeles new-music scene. wild Up, a rising young new-music ensemble led by Christopher Rountree—who conducts here —has a long association with the singer/composer, and like Graduale Nobili, provide both accompanimental textures and moments of their own highly exposed virtuosity, to the extent that if one takes the album as a whole, there is not so much the sense that any one of these elements is working in service of any other, as that they are all organically interdependent and interconnected systems essential to a single sound-world.
Each performing unit, in turn, might seem to be the logical outgrowth of any of the others, thanks in part to the cunningly idiomatic writing of these composers—not just Jodie Landau, but also his and wild Up's fellow Angelenos Ellen Reid, Marc Lowenstein, and Andrew Tholl—which allows the vocals and instruments to blur into each other, so that the sound of the choir seems to effloresce from the sound of the instruments one moment, from Landau's voice the next, and in the moment after that suddenly become the musical point of focus.
But each composer also exercises a radically different style. Tholl's memory draws the map we follow is a series of inexorable, emotionally fraught cycles; Reid's Orlando & Tiresias is a severe, quasi-operatic dialogue between chorus and soloist; This, by Lowenstein, is a sprawling, mystical rumination. Each guides the energy of these performers in another direction from Landau's compositions, and from each other.
Once the list of collaborators was in place, the sessions were rehearsed, performed, and recorded—by producer/composer Valgeir Sigurðsson with Paul Evans —in a week and a half, on a largely crowdfunded budget. The scores demand a certain spontaneity from the performers, and that spontaneity is reflected in a recording that captures the whirlwind energy of these sessions, without sacrificing clarity, quality or color of sound. The resulting album offers us a glimpse of a wild, chimerical beast, caught in action for the first time, but never quite tamed.
What the press says
An incredibly confident debut from composer, vocalist, and percussionist Jodie Landau. A cunning blend of rigid composition and spontaneity…
The resulting album offers us a glimpse of a wild, chimerical beast, caught in action for the first time, but never quite tamed.
“you of all things,” is radiantly lovely in every detail, but perhaps the loveliest of all is Landau’s astonishing vocal performance. As the music demands, it rises to something like a bellow, then sinks back to the airiest whisper, and even as it approaches silence remains impressively nuanced and controlled—it loves the microphone, and the mic plainly reciprocates.
In this debut, Landau gets more sheer authority into each measure of music and line of text than some of our best people do in a whole score. And one of the reasons this is such a singular event is that it’s not just Landau. He is writer, singer, and composer but he’s something more: a Peter Pan who has led a big band of not-at-all lost boys and girls from Los Angeles to Reykjavik
Jodie Landau’s compositions create the path the listener is on. His works, and voice, seduce us with the charm of an old flame laying next to us in bed, the past forgotten and all that matters is where we are now. His tracks have an immediacy that occurs organically, building on ideas that all resolve one another in the end and the results are, like the ending of von Trier’sBreaking the Waves, heavenly. The listener is transported by this album to another world, one unscarred by the harsh realities of the day. It uses music in the way that people have hoped to use it—as pure escapism from the world. The album is a labor of love from everyone involved and in this regard, the case could be made that you of all things has a political statement: what the world needs now is love, sweet love. And what the classical world needs now is Landau, sweet Landau to show it.
The greatness of You of All Things is that it re-elaborates without overturning or, worse, overdoing. “Control” is key, here. Landau’s authority in administering influences, while retaining total command of his voice, almost counting the times his chords resonate in the shortest frame of time.
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On the web
- Find out more on Jodie Landau and wild Up’s website
- Check out Jodie Landau and wild Up’s page on Facebook
- Follow Jodie Landau and wild Up on Twitter