In my first chemistry practical at school we explored the difference between mixtures and compounds. Most metallic elements, we were told, have certain properties in common: they are hard and shiny; they conduct heat and electricity well; they ring when you strike them. Non-metals, like sulphur, are usually soft and powdery, are insulators and scrunch quietly if you hit them. Bearing this in mind we did the following experiment.
Pour some iron filings and some powdered yellow sulphur into a crucible. Mix it well and heat it with a bunsen burner. Both the sulphur and the iron will change. When you can no longer see any iron filings or sulphur powder remove the burner, allow everything to cool and examine the contents of the crucible.
If you do this you will get a grey/black solid mass that can be crumbled fairly easily. It doesn’t look like iron and it doesn’t look like sulphur, either. In fact, it doesn’t share any obvious properties with either of the original ingredients. You have made iron (II) sulphide, chemical formula FeS.
Now take some synthpop and a generous spoonful of jazz. Bring them together in a recording studio and generate a spark of creativity by supplying the musicians with beer, burgers or promises of untold fame. Both the pop and the jazz will change. The result will be neither pop nor jazz; it will be the Landscape album.
Landscape was a group of five musicians about which the Net has very little to say. They were formed in 1974 and released three albums: Landscape (1979), From the Tea-Rooms of Mars … to the Hell-Holes of Uranus (1981) and Manhattan Boogie-Woogie (1982). In their early years they experimented with a variety of electronic instruments, including synthesisers, electronic drums, electric trombone and the lyricon, all of which feature prominently in their records.
That first self-titled album is a collection of instrumental pieces featuring keyboard, bass, drums and two brass/woodwind players. It’s the lineup of a jazz band, the sound of electronics and the tunes of the charts fused into something unlike any of those elements. Of the three albums only Landscape manages to get the chemistry right and create something genuinely new. (From the Tea-Rooms is pure electronic pop, Manhattan Boogie is full of dance tracks and both feature vocals that subtract more than they add.)
For me, Landscape (the album) is Landscape (the band) and it’s my overdue Album of the Month for June.