Long Distance Calling
How Do We Want To Live
My earliest memory of a band touting adding electronics to their well-established guitar driven approach was Van Halen. The idea of synthesizers in VH music was controversial at the time, but in hindsight, it worked well. Initially, everyone was nervous that this new sound would send Eddie's otherworldly guitar work to a watered down grave. Instead, it gave them a larger audience while still allowing the heavy part of the Van Halen sound to thrive on the 1984 record. I always thought the key was the band's success at using electronic sounds in a perfect complimentary manner.
On How Do We Want To Live (2020), Long Distance Calling's seventh full length record, the German Post-Metal outfit goes down the path of adding more prominent use of electronic sounds to expand their creative palette. It's understandable when 95% of your work is all-instrumental that you would eventually seek new paints for your canvas. Since the concept of this album is rooted in man's overly curious nature potentially leading us to our own demise at the hands of superior machines, featuring more machine generated sounds in these songs would seem a natural fit.
Before I listened to the record, I heard they had taken this approach and I had a nervous Van Halen flashback. It was partially warranted too as the results are a bit mixed. I say a bit because the record is not the end of LDC's formidable sound by any stretch, but the effect is to rob us, in spots, of album minutes that could be devoted to the biggest hammer in the band's toolbox. I'm speaking of the fluid, melodic and at times, thunderous guitar work of David Jordan and Florian Funtmann. More often than not, these electronic sounds blend into the music nicely, offering atmospheric touches and texture that enhance the songs. In spots, they even give the music a Pink Floyd-ish vibe and I mean that as a compliment. However, I also felt this intentional new focus forced extra length into song intros and sections that just does not need to be there. The most interesting parts of the album are when the guitars really kick in and most of the time; it just takes too long to arrive at those moments.
There are plenty of quality highlights for your ear holes. The spoken word intro, “Curiosity, Pt. 1” is twice as long as it needs to be but sparks intrigue about what's to come which is paid off nicely by “Curiosity, Pt. 2”, a driving instrumental full of tempo changes and dynamic ideas that highlight the excellent musicianship of this band. If you are going to write songs following no conventional structure rules and featuring no lyrics, the music needs to do the talking and hold your interest. As they have done so often on previous releases, they succeed here. By the end of this track, I was fully engaged in the record.
Next up was “Hazard”, the first single released from the album. Ironically, the song they chose to carry the marketing banner for the new record is exactly where it starts to lose its way. This song lacks the intensity and innovation of the first song. The first interesting moment comes four minutes in where you unearth some solid fretwork. All the music prior is nice but it feels like too much of the side dish before you get to the meat. Dabbling with beds of electronic sound and light guitar riffs for two thirds of the track feels meandering and uninteresting to me. I don't mind taking a less direct approach on the journey but don't wear me out before I get to the payoff.
Cuts four and five also feel like background filler and take forever to blast off. However, when they do, LDC sports the kind of balls in these moments that are found more abundantly on previous releases. The album finally comes back to the main highway for a couple songs. “Immunity” grabbed me as a better composition overall. The next cut, “Sharing Thoughts”, also stands out on the record. This compelling song starts with some sad piano and takes interesting twists and turns throughout. The cut is paced well, builds layer by layer to a boiling crescendo, and then comes back to earth over the same strains of piano with which it started. Clocking in at over seven minutes, I stayed in my seat for the whole ride.
At this point, we get to the one song with singing. Typically, there is one on a Long Distance Calling record. Eric A. Pulverich of the band Kyles Tolone delivers a strong vocal that helps the song along, but it's nothing I could sing back to you later. The album wraps up with a couple of unremarkable tracks featuring more spoken dialogue about how humans will always screw themselves by being overly curious. We just have to touch it if it says, 'Do not touch.' The very theme of the record is quite fitting in light of the current pandemic and ultimately, it is suggested that humans themselves are a virus. There is probably some truth to that. This record isn't bad, but it isn't great either. There are musical moments that stir emotion, but they don't show up often enough. The length of LDC songs on other records is not usually a problem. Here, it felt like a weakness of the record. I'm glad I heard How Do We Want To Live once but I don't need to hear it again.
How Do We Want To Live (2020)
Nighthawk (EP) (2014)
The Flood Inside (2013)
Long Distance Calling (2011)
Avoid The Light (2009)
Satellite Bay (2007)
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