Land – The Maze We’re In – EP Review
Man. Y’all make it so tough for people to Google ya sometimes, it just blows the mind lol. Music is already hard enough to get into the ears around this planet where it belongs without any extra obstacles required so far as I know, just sayin.’ But to be completely fair to the band, they’ve got themselves a completely kickass, identifiable logo, a rad sound that fuses Post-Punk vibes with Synthwave and a mellow Electro-Industrial twist to create a really compelling & cool hybrid style of their own. Land has been rockin’ plenty strong for about fifteen years or more from what I can see online…trust me when I tell ya, despite all the odds against them in a search engine situation, you don’t end up with fifteen years under your belt and a lifelong career without at least a few folks finding your music along the way. I’d say this band from Italy is doin’ just fine over there, and clearly they’ve been able to reach out around the world with the music they make. You can see plenty of evidence to support that in the massive hit-counts they’ve racked up throughout their time in the scene to-date, and more importantly than that, you can hear within their music that the band is still plenty into what they do after all these years and all this time. Land’s got themselves a brand-new record called The Maze We’re In…looks like the second one they’ve put out this year as well, following the release of the No Time EP earlier in 2021…credit where complete credit is due, this band is constantly active and full proof that the independents out there can totally carve out a justifiable career.
Alright. So…technically you’ve got three new originals here, and four remixes to go along with’em to create the full lineup of seven cuts you’ll hear on The Maze We’re In by Land. I gotta say, in reading about them and having a listen, I’m very much impressed by just how well they know their sound, how in-tune they are with what they want to create, and how precise the end results are in that regard. Like for real – listen to that kickass beat & rhythmic pulse that starts up “The Maze We’re In” will ya? It’s pretty much the shiniest & raddest sound you’ve heard since U2 went on their Zooropa tour back in the day, or Depeche Mode when they started firing up the circuits a bit more intensely on the Ultra album. All-in-all, it makes for quite the hybrid sound…we’re not talking any kind of comparisons to U2 beyond the shiny values of the production & live-wire vibe…there’s no Bono here…we’ve got vocals much closer to Gahan in that regard, with that stoic & reliable, deadpan delivery that gives ya just enough of a hint of melody. That snare snap is so damn addictive on its own! The energy that Land pumps out right at the start of “The Maze We’re In” definitely gets you interested quickly, and the way they continually morph this song in multiple directions from there really earns the attention you’ll end up paying to this first cut. From the smooth design of the verses, to the smart moves they make like letting the music breathe for a moment or two in a breakdown along the way, to the overall catchiness of the hypnotic groove they slip into around the 2:30 mark…I mean, there’s a lot to dig here for sure, and the balance of strengths in Land is stellar right across the board. Obviously with the implied heavy weight that tends to come along with anything that leans towards the Post-Punk sound, there’s always a somewhat narrower slice of the pie when it comes to the masses listening out there and the audience for that kind of musical moodiness – but you’ll find no such complaints from me; to me, “The Maze We’re In” is flashy in all the right ways, equally clever on an artistic level, and gets the energy & interest sparked up quickly on this new record.
With the low-end-driven vocals of Land, they’ll get a lot of comparisons to bands that flex a similar vibe from the microphone from Depeche Mode & Joy Division, right on up to the current day in The Editors, She Wants Revenge, Nine Inch Nails, and the like etc. etc. for sure – but overall, I think a lot of people will find what’s happening in Land to have a bit more juice in its circuits and life running through its veins than you’ll find the majority of those acts tend to provide. Personally, I’d tell ya that a track like “What Remains” has much more in common with stuff you’d find in like…say…the Sneaker Pimps, Massive Attack…the same Trip-Hop community that houses artistically-inclined acts like Portishead, Thievery Corporation…you get the idea I’m sure – Land is creating compelling art through the music they make. Once again, they put their Electro-driven sound up front to entice us in, and they go on to reveal a whole set of hooks that work brilliantly both from the music & the microphone. The main synth hooks you’ll hear add a ton of significant melody to this track that livens the whole vibe up just enough – the details put into the production from the lefts to the rights are exceptional – and the vocals hit the target as well, using layers in the chorus to make an even bigger impact through the harmonies & personality you’ll find on display there. Really impressed by the depth in the sound & sonic textures Land plays with – “What Remains” is as uniquely catchy & compelling as the opening track was, making it clear that when it comes to the main three originals cuts on this new record, they’ve made sure they were as bulletproof as they could be before they go on to remix’em later on – which is pretty solid strategy y’all.
“Rules” actually comes out starting with a variation, for the “Rules (21 Mix)” and its first of two appearances. Deadly sound right from the start…bending the synth vibes in the background to spark the twist of mischief in the atmosphere – there’s no doubt that Land knows full-well how to catch your attention right at the very start of each of these tunes. In some ways, I felt like “Rules (21 Mix)” took their niche sound and made it even more narrow in terms of the scope of their potential audience – but at other times, I’d get SO into the like…damn near Electro-Tribal vibe they tap into during the chorus, and be completely convinced that this was actually the best cut of the main three tunes! So truthfully, yes, I did wrestle back & forth with this track in terms of how I felt about it to a degree, but I’d say by the end here in typing this review up, I became fully onboard with the “Rules (21 Mix).” At the end of the day, it’s a hard-hitting cut built on an intense, slow-burning fire that blazes up with wild personality and the chemistry that Land shares between them. There’s just so much to love when it comes to the production of songs like this that if you’re anything of an audiophile like I am myself, you can’t help but find multiple aspects in the many dimensions of the dynamics on display in a track like “Rules (21 Mix)” to capture your interest & keep ya fully captivated. Overall, this track actually reminds me a lot of stuff like you’d find in KMFDM, but like…you know…with a mellower, more accessible sound, instead of music that seems like it’s trying to actively kill you through its ripping aggression – but if you’re listening to the fundamentals of the structure and the rhythm & pulse of the groove, you’ll hear the similarities for sure.
I’ve actually spent a lot of time on these pages lately talking about the reappearance of songs on short records and the impact that can potentially have on the wear & tear of a tune over time – and I’ve pointed out along the way that there IS a right way to go about doing it that won’t have that effect – which is exactly what you’ll hear in the way that Land has approached this record. To me, if you’re gonna have a track like “The Maze We’re In” show up three times, those variations have gotta supply us something unique from each other, enough to the point where each track would feel essentially like its own journey altogether – that’s pretty much the key. While you’ll certainly find the similarities that do exist between “The Maze We’re In” in its original form and “The Maze We’re In (Out Of Control)” in its extended remix through the vocal melody & hooks – structurally & music-wise, we’re talking about a major overhaul and redesign that gives us entirely new dimensions of sound to experience this time around, establishing that necessary difference from the original cut, and taking the song for a new ride. Giving it a decisively more EDM-esque spin to its design – even though it’s a version that expands this song to over six-minutes in total length, I’d almost be surprised if this particular cut didn’t potentially appeal to an even wider audience than perhaps the original did. Bottom line is, I dig the Land approach – a great song has every right to lead several lives, and “The Maze We’re In” certainly qualifies in that regard. Plus, it’s a main staple of the Post-Punk realm too; as a proud fan of The Cure my entire life, I cannot even begin to express just how many remixes & additional versions there are of Robert Smith’s creations out there in this world…Depeche Mode ain’t that far off in that regard too depending on how far you’re willing to dig on the internet out there as well. Anyhow – I felt like “The Maze We’re In (Out Of Control)” gives you that much more to love about this particular cut, and supplied a highly rhythmic Electro groove that’s brilliantly enticing, and a remarkably clever contrast when considering the lyrics.
I remember on my very first spin through The Maze We’re In, I reached “What Remains (Elektro-Funk Rework” and thought to myself, “now…THAT is THE SOUND right there y’all” – and I stand by that – I think in many ways, this was the highlight of the entire record for me personally. Make no mistake – you’ve read my words to this point so far, you know I already felt like “What Remains” was a solid cut to start with…but this…THIS is just straight-up magnificent, full-stop. It’s EXACTLY what it promises it will be – this is a genuine “Elektro-Funk Rework” in all its defined audible glory – and the additional catchiness it brings to this song simply cannot be denied. As it bubbles up from the beginning and continues to surge smoothly into its stunningly rhythmic design – the way Land lightens-up here, is truly inspired – and in terms of accessibility…I can’t think of a better single than this cut to put out there to act as the gateway in for people to listen. Just about as universal as music can be if you ask me – the immaculate level of detail in the music will mesmerize you and practically leave ya in awe – the execution all-around, is faultless, impeccable, and entirely flawless – I’m 100% captivated every single time “What Remains (Elektro-Funk Rework)” comes on and felt like it showed Land in the best of lights.
No matter if it was the “Rules (21 Mix)” before, or the “Rules (I.T.L. Mix)” later on, I never really did come to what I felt was a completely solid conclusion as to how I really felt about it, or why it seemed to always send me back & forth between wondering if I just liked it, or actually loved it. I know I was never indifferent, so how about that? That’s always a good thing! Anyhow. I think it simply comes down to a matter of “What Remains” and “The Maze We’re In” being stronger tunes, or at least ones that resonate with me in a much more clear way than “Rules” ever seemed to be able to. With regards to the “Rules (I.T.L. Mix)” – we’re now entering a cut that’s just shy of seven minutes…which makes it a much bigger demand on a guy like me that’s been scratching his head this whole time trying to figure out what it is about this cut that seems to hold me back from just loving it…it’s a perplexing vibe perhaps, but I ain’t sayin’ I haven’t been fully entertained & listening to it just as much as the rest, I certainly have been. It’s still another quality tune on this record – that seems to be the rhythm & pulse of Land…they do what they do really well, and “Rules (I.T.L. Mix)” still hits the standards they’ve set by every measure. I’m probably gonna say I lean towards the “Rules (21 Mix)” of the two versions as far as my own personal taste is concerned…I felt like “Rules (I.T.L. Mix)” took a while to really find that defining moment that justified its second version, but believe me, it does exist. It’s right around the 4:20 mark if you ask me – that’s where I felt like “Rules (I.T.L. Mix)” really flexes a stunning level of insightful depth into how they twist this sound into a jazzy & danceable Electro cut by the time it’s all said & done. Truthfully, in that respect, you gotta hand it to the “Rules (I.T.L. Mix)” for making what becomes arguably the biggest transformation from its start to its finish in comparison to the rest…in that sense, this song travels the farthest, and there’s always value for listeners in being able to take a journey with multiple dimensions.
In many ways, I’d argue that they found what they were looking for in “The Maze We’re In” by the very end with the “Wave Mix” on the final cut – I think it’s got quite a few advantages in this particular version to reach an even bigger audience than the other two could. While I wasn’t entirely sure about how naked the vocals tend to be towards the start, you also get a much clearer opportunity to absorb the content & poetic lyricism of Land as well, which is pretty cool too. As “The Maze We’re In (Wave Mix)” continues on however, prepare to be dazzled by the way this track will shift gears as it heads into its second minute – right around that spot, you might just be hearing the most radiantly addictive energy, sound, vibe, and highlight moment of the entire record. And believe me when I tell ya, the smooth glide that begins the run to the finale around the 3:20 mark ain’t that far off either – that’s another spectacular moment in a song that features a whole bunch of’em…I felt like Land really got to the heart of how to make “The Maze We’re In” even more appealing to a wider audience with this final version for sure. Depends on what they were going for here of course – I think there’s somewhat of an opportunity to make the music bigger and the vocals enveloped a bit more tightly into the mix, but if their intentions on this mix was to shine a brighter light on the singing & lyrics instead, then mission accomplished. It’s not a complaint, just an observation – like I said, it really depends on what their own intentions were in how they approached making “The Maze We’re In (Wave Mix).” I’d assume by the time any of us reach the two-minute mark, we’re all so relentlessly hooked on what we hear, that any potential questions would subside quickly, and we’ll all focus on what’s right in front of us, which is a full array of spectacularly engaging sound, substantial content, and a genuinely admirable inclusion of real art in the design of their material. Land is on solid ground with The Maze We’re In EP – I’m into it.
Find more music by Land at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5mXlHrcTyXbIbgvP5qgXyq
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