In Lars von Trier’s film Breaking the Waves, the heroine, after traumatic emotional turmoil, stands at the shoreline of an ocean hearing the chimes from heaven above. They beckon her to be relieved of the harsh world and to a place of eternal bliss.
Gone are the days of concept albums. Remember? They were the likes of Quadrophenia and Blood on the Tracks where lyrics and music blended to create an abstract yet cohesive narrative, a riff on ideas and emotions that inspire the songwriter to create something like a story. Jodie Landau must have listened to Quadrophenia, Blood on the Tracks, Schoenberg, and Schubert as he wrote the compositions that make up you of all things, the exhilarating new album from Landau and the group wildUp. Though von Trier is not present, the artists make the transcendental feeling of moving from earth to a place of heavenly bliss possible for its listeners. Here is an album that takes all words from us, leaving us breathless. The result is a heavenly exhilarating ride from start to finish.
Collaboration is one of the differentiating factors that sets this album apart from others released today. wildUp, a Los Angeles-based “modern music collective” known for its rousing renditions of lesser known works such as Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, uses its members as composers-in-residence for the album, a feat that is equally cheaper to produce and rewarding to have in their rep. Landau shares composing credits on the CD with fellow member Andrew Tholl and up-and-coming new music composers Ellen Reid and Marc Lowenstein. The choir, Graduale Nobili (best known for their collaboration with Bjork), are the heavenly angels in the background, singing as one simultaneously angelic voice. wildUp’s performance as a unit excels as a gorgeously unified machine. On tracks such as memory draws the maps… they are able to make sense of the difficult demands of the piece whereas they perform with grace in A Ballad, accompanying Landau’s sultry vocals perfectly.
Landau, whose works defy categorization, molds the album as a masterfully composed cycle where songs bleed effortlessly into one another to create a new soundscape unfamiliar to us, yet inviting. There is a level of organic osmosis with all elements of the recording working together in perfect harmony, all under the musical direction Christopher Rountree. Graduale Nobili travels as accompanists from the instruments one second and to Landau’s voice another. It is reminiscent of Penderecki’s choir in The Dream of Jacob where the voices highlight themselves in certain moments before backing off to let a solo instrument take the foreground.
It is difficult to talk individually about each track, as all work so idiosyncratically with one another. Ellen Reid’s Orlando & Tiresias is an eight-minute ride to the unknown and back; Reid ratchets up the tension by stretching her choir’s range to its maximum capacity before relieving the listener through a quiet reprieve. Marc Lowenstein’s this (parts i&ii) reminisces epically on themes of isolation, heightened by its musical sense of emptiness that itself never sounds hollow. Tholl’s memory draws the map we follow is head-spinning; an emotional ride through our own psyches, and, like the memories which draw the maps we follow, we can’t quite understand what we have just heard but there is an odd sense of familiarity to it.
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’s Breaking 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.