A Dream of Many Ages
There’s a reason everyone wishes they could time travel. Whether that reason be to correct a mistake or to just experience the world beyond their current or future forms varies from person to person. However, the deepest cause remains the same in all cases: the past is static, solid, predictable, and anyone who wishes to go back may simply plug in a year and understand all that is necessary about their destination. There is an appeal to the predictable, the expected; it is comforting and calming in a way that our lives so often are not. L.A. Takedown understand this appeal to nostalgia and stability and use it to craft wistful melodies seemingly plucked from ages past on their latest album II.
II is largely comprised of guitar and synth, with some light, but largely unnoticeable, bass and drum-playing simply for the sake of rhythm-keeping. Perhaps the most apt comparisons for L.A. Takedown are bands like Chromatics and Beach House, but L.A. Takedown are never quite so identifiable as those two bands often are. The synth–guitar combo reveals itself early on in “Heatwave” where the drums and bass guitar provide a steady rhythm for the synth, which in turn creates a dreamy backdrop over which the washed out guitars can effortlessly glide. The song feels like flying, as does much of the album to come. This flying feeling is much less Mogwai, though, and much more Real Estate; it is a sustained glide over valleys and cities, slow and smooth with little change in altitude or speed. It is calm and relaxing, the cool air flowing over listeners’ faces as they are escorted through various locales then softly deposited on down bedsheets when the album concludes. This effect continues into album standout “L.A. Blue,” which is softer and looser than “Heatwave,” containing jazzier and more chilled out elements. The song feels cool, like the wind on a Malibu night. The track does shift midway through, though, turning into a sun-soaked calypso jam, readily bringing images of trunk-wearing young men and women in bikinis laughing and dancing beneath the Santa Monica Pier.
The back half of this album takes the feelings of cool and calm to an entirely different extreme. The music is washed out and almost hazy, sounding as though one is listening underwater, an effect that is especially noticeable on “Us” and “Dose,” where the songs move more into the territory of Real Estate than they had previously on the record. This sound works very well for L.A. Takedown, yielding music that would be perfect for cruising along PCH, provided the weather is sunny enough and the roads are clear — though the latter is foolish to expect. The album largely draws influence from the synth-driven rock popularized in the 1980s, but the influence of both ’60s and modern beach rock is undeniable. The album invites unexpected comparisons, ranging from Ariel Pink to Naive Thieves The Dear Hunter (though only on their album Blue) to even Todd Terje on the track “Night Skiing.”
L.A. Takedown have used their wide range of influences to pull together elements of the past and present in wondrous fashion. Their slick guitar melodies and simple rhythm components create a dreamy, sun-soaked atmosphere that any listener should find oneself happily ensnared in after only a few listens. L.A. Takedown possess a unique ability to transport the listener to both the past and the dreamy present, providing a brief reprieve from the chaos of the world within their music. Perhaps most exciting is the layered nature of the record, each listen invites closer scrutiny, allowing the listener to peel back the layers of guitar and synth to find engaging and unique construction that is rather unlike any band today, despite the comparisons they so readily invite.