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Given the overwhelming ambivalence that met with Klaxons' nu-rave hangover record Surfing The Void, one has to give some credit to the former Mercury Prize winners for even letting Landmarks Of Lunacy see the light of day.
Previously barred from release by Polydor, the prospect of any fervent mythology arising around this “dense, psychedelic record” concocted from three weeks spent in the heart of the French countryside with producer James Ford has now been eradicated.
Rather than standing up as a Songs From The Black Hole or Smile that was justifiably excised, this free to download EP of strung out esotericism goes some way to validating the material’s initial dismissal.
The most striking feature of Landmarks is just how far it strays from the unhinged immediacy of the four piece’s debut album, Myths From The Near Future.
Opener ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is the most conventionally structured offering on the EP, its initial spidery riff blooming into a somewhat predictable wail of reverb without any sense of menace to hold the listeners interest.
‘Silver Forest’ similarly begins without any sense of purpose other than a feebly-picked rhythm which, rather than “sail towards delight” as singer Jamie Reynolds suggests, seems destined for the land of mediocrity without any idea of how to change course.
Past descriptions of this material have been unrestrained by either genre or grammar, it’s “folky, hippy, psychedelic, noisy, weirded-out prog” according to guitarist Simon Taylor-Davies. Yet the singularity of these tracks stands out like a sore thumb.
Play it slow, relate each song title to a colour or feature of nature and meander through swathes of ambient feedback for around four minutes seems to be the mantra behind Landmarks....
‘Ivy Leaves’ fares best under this formula by pushing it to its natural conclusion with a coarsely synthesised drum machine beat, positing a pleasant contrast to the ethereal high pitched scrawl that dominates the rest of the track.
In the less polarised atmosphere of ‘Wildeflowers’ however, the four piece seem lost for ideas on what to do with yet another pedestrian soundscape. Whether out of desperation or self-indulgence the decision was eventually taken to chant nonsense for the song’s duration, “Down where the trees are still standing, complementarity measures, heathers are grey and are plenty.”
Closer ‘Marble Fields’ at least makes a play for pathos, breaking out some minor chords and falsetto, but by this point in the EP it really is too late in proceedings to expect anyone to attempt to comprehend or care about yet another track that dutifully ends in a haze of tunelessness.
In releasing Landmarks of Lunacy, Klaxons have not only exposed themselves to the charge that it has been several years since they wrote a pop song of note. What's more troublesome is the revelation that, when left to their own wilfully obscure devices, the results fall a long way short of the kaleidoscopic delight that was promised.
For a band so in thrall to the powers of mysticism, Landmarks of Lunacy does little to cloud the perception that this one was best left to the untapped cosmos.
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