Lansing-Dreiden is a company whose extensive body of work consists of forays into music, video, sculpture, drawing and writing. Their creations, while standing as provocative entities unto themselves, also contribute to a broader, ongoing company story. As Lansing-Dreiden’s output expands and diversifies over time, its story unfolds and its image evolves. Lansing-Dreiden entered 2006 with The Dividing Island, an album that realized the company’s potential in new, transcendent ways. The Dividing Island is Lansing-Dreiden’s second full-length album. Its first full-length, The Incomplete Triangle, was self-released in 2003 and was hailed in the pages of Spin Magazine as “dreamy space rock… with a psychedelic metal twist.” The Incomplete Triangle was followed by an EP, A Sectioned Beam, praised by Time Out New York as “an airtight example of textbook pop perfection.” Both titles were reissued by Kemado Records in 2004.
With The Dividing Island, Lansing-Dreiden explores the theme of division. The titular island divides; the album’s lyrics and music point at this process from various angles, illustrating the emergence of two sides, and a line in between. This scenario appears simple enough, but is deceptively so””in the world depicted by Lansing-Dreiden, division and duality are not necessarily states of distinct sides. Progression and regression intermingle, ascension and descension flip-flop. Against this complex landscape, Lansing-Dreiden builds a brilliant and perplexing album, one possessing a wealth of possible interpretations. What is the dividing island? The album’s lyrics paint a picture not of a specific place, but of a general, nebulous state of opposition; yet out of this abstract milieu, concrete meanings may also be derived. “Cement to Stone” and “A Line You Can Cross” —two songs whose lyrics tell of edges, angles, and horizon lines””both feature dueling vocals, lows and highs, suggesting accounts of the lines between men and women. “One For All” and “Dethroning The Optimyth” conjure images of war by way of lines like “Twin black wings descend on me/ Finish me,” against others such as “Much before the sword’s satisfied/ You can make the whole thing right.”
Musically, the theme of division is set forth in the opening track, “Dividing Island,” which consists of two completely contrasting sections, sharing only lyrical and melodic phrases. This song begins with lush, languid waves of psychedelia, breaking abruptly into an exuberant, exhilarating call-to-arms. If these two parts represent the two halves of a dividing whole —a dividing island””Lansing-Dreiden reunites the island, revealing the oneness of the parts by using them to build a cohesive, infectious song. This pattern pervades The Dividing Island. Many of the album’s songs weave disparate musical elements into intensely familiar yet uncategorizable wholes. The modern mixes with the archaic, the known with the unknown. On “One For All,” a traditional pop/R&B song is layered with darker sounds, alien to that genre —ominous chords, ghostly harmonies, and a recurring drum sample evoking the sound of gunfire. “Dethroning The Optimyth” tempers a power-metal assault with angelic vocals. Elsewhere, jangly guitar hooks are soured by dissonant keyboard swells; electronic cadences rattle along beside acoustic drum breaks; vocals soar, warm and emotive yet mysteriously veiled. Culling irresistible sounds from rock, pop, R&B, soul, metal, and beyond, Lansing-Dreiden reconfigures the divided into unpredictable, utterly unique sums. The Dividing Island comes at the end of a particularly prolific period for Lansing-Dreiden. Most recently, the company presented An Effect of the Night, a gallery show of drawings and video at New York’s Rivington Arms (winning acclaim in Artforum’s Best Of 2005 issue); the third issue of Death Notice, its literary magazine; the video for “Glass Corridor”; and L-D Section I, a 9-pc band that performed Lansing-Dreiden’s music in the live setting (playing sold-out shows in New York, Seattle, and Austin). With L-D Section II currently in rehearsals, the release of Death Notice IV impending, and a solo exhibition of new work scheduled for the fall, 2006 shows the next pieces of the Lansing-Dreiden story being set firmly into place. – Curran Reynolds