The zero gravity unit that is All India Radio is back with a new album titled Red Shadow Landing, and it’s an ethereal dream. The disc opens with a beautiful piece of ephemera titled “The Night Sky,” which is the perfect introduction to what they do so well. The band is led by Martin Kennedy, whose taste in the almighty chill is immaculate.
There are a lot of elements that appear in the music of AIR, but the key to what makes them so special is the manner in which they utilize repetition. Kennedy writes marvelously intricate melodies, but the manner in which they are slowly spooled out makes them even more remarkable. Nobody is in a hurry on Red Shadow Landing, and this allows for the beauty of each piece to be fully realized. “Golden,” “Transcede,” and “The Lie” are just a few examples of how these tendencies combine to create some incredibly memorable songs.
Not to compare the two groups in any way, but a few years ago the Dixie Chicks recorded a song titled “Wide Open Spaces.” There is something about the music of AIR which evokes a sense of wide open spaces for me, in a much different way than the Chicks did. “Don’t Leave” captures this feeling better than anything else on the album. The sentiment can be applied to any number of visions. Whether it is the prairie, the ocean, or the night sky, the expression of limitless vistas is one of the most romantic ideals I know of.
Like his fellow travelers in The Church, Martin Kennedy is from Australia. In fact, he collaborated with Steve Kilbey for the wonderful Unseen Music, Unheard Words in 2010. Maybe it’s an Aussie thing, but the two complement each other very well. As an isolated Yank, the first recording I heard by The Church was Heyday, back in 1985. The album closed with a phenomenal six-minute instrumental titled “Happy Hunting Ground.” Not to diminish the greatness of Martin Kennedy or All India Radio in any way, but I hear the best qualities of that song in a lot of Red Shadow Landing.
What I mean to say by that is there are an incredible number of moments of transcendence sprinkled throughout the 11 songs that make up the disc. Whether it is the wordless, lilting harmonies of “Like a Butterfly,” the lightly strummed guitar tones of “When You Are Here,” or the ethereal grace of “Tomorrowland,” AIR quite effortlessly evokes a world of possibility.
In much the same way as “The North Sky“ opened up this magical world, “Afterlight” provides the perfect closing statement. There is a stronger, more definitive feel to it which encapsulates all that came before. There is certainly nothing harsh about “Afterlight” though. It simply pointed my finger toward the repeat button, because the preceding 45 minutes went by far too quickly.
As one may infer, this is an album that invites repeated plays. It is a cold and drizzly world outside my window today, but the music contained on Red Shadow Landing offers a shimmering alternative. This is music designed to take the listener anywhere they wish to go, and is a truly gorgeous record.