Mix-tapes are a great way to share and flaunt music tastes, and more often than not a mix tape will have an artist that completely blows your mind, one someone with your knowledge of music has never heard of.
The Dividing Island is the kind of CD which someone would pick a track or two from to toss on a mix tape, and that song would become the recipient's favorite, standing out as that odd brilliant track. Actually, The Dividing Island is itself a mix tape in which each song is that brilliant number by a band no one’s heard of. One could say it's almost a compilation of the best of the '80s that had never been discovered until now.
Going retro is the coolest thing in music nowadays, and since every other act sounds like someone from the '80s and most of them are so similar to each other in styles, the whole charm of this genre has been abused to the point that it has become no less irritating than present-day emo.
But Lansing-Dreiden has taken retro music to a whole new level. The very peculiarity of this group and this album is the fact that even though it sounds so genuinely retro, it is impossible to pinpoint the music to any particular group of that era. Its music is an overwhelming mixture of so many different styles that the mélange is an all too familiar sound that is also impossible to define.
The Dividing Island also encompasses '60s and '70s flavors into one stew. The first cut and title track begin with the same degree of sophistication, complexity and mysteriousness of most Tears For Fears numbers, but changes course completely as it progresses and transforms into a garage tune with blasting drums and crude guitars that are absolutely diametric to its beginning. This web of complexity is spun throughout the entire 40 minutes, and each song goes through so many different layers and variations that it is hard to believe its brevity.
“Cement To Stone” has a different rock thing going. Sharing the elements of the title tune, this one veers indie instead of garage, with some really cool late-'80s folk guitars doused by thick layers of synth. The following track and the album’s single (the really cool video is available streaming at the Band Website), “A Line You Can Cross,” is everything that defined '80s pop: the tune is catchy, the beats are infectious and the chorus is one of the strongest ever.
Similarly, “One For All” is another uncompromising cut that lacks the beats or tingling chorus of “Line” but manages a cheesy keyboard sound that works. “Part Of The Promise” juggles psychedelic and post-punk styles, while “Our Next Breath,” is completely dreamy folk rock and is the most non-'80s track of the album.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the record is saved for the last. “Dethroning The Optimyth” is, to put it sanely, a trash-metal song – look out, Pantera, here comes Lansing-Dreiden. Unbelievably, this track has some really sharp and speedy guitar riffs racing neck-to-neck with the super-fast drumming, and the song rocks pretty hard, showing a shockingly weird side of the group. Still, the vocals give it away, as they are not tormented enough to accompany the speed metal, but this bizarre combination sure makes the song interesting.
Even within the complexity and strangeness of The Dividing Island, every song is catchy. The vocals are excellent and the complicated production is polished. Lansing-Dreiden is actually a multi-media company, so to speak, whose work includes drawings, collages, sculptures, videos, music and Death Notice, a free newspaper containing fictional stories and images. What is even more terrific is that this record is written, composed, played, and produced entirely by Lansing-Dreiden, without any additional collaboration.
The Dividing Island might be an obscure record by an obscure act. But with its sheer originality and brilliance, it makes the “in” retro acts of today look like a complete joke. Even the more talented ones that have a glint of originality seem obvious rip-offs of classic acts of yesteryears. The Dividing Island is unarguably one of the top-five albums of the year, if not the best. This is true music from a bunch of truly multi-talented artists.[For more information on Lansing-Dreiden, visit www.lansing-dreiden.com]