Review Summary: "we are not alone."Field Reports from the Western Lands
captures the large-scale anxieties of socio-political turmoil and war, where the worst fears are manifested in gradual mental degradation rather than instant physical destruction. English producer and rapper (James)Reindeer fuses two psyches: the hunted, spilling intel under the cover of darkness and a cyanide pill always within arms reach, and a withered doomsday seer. Reindeer’s diction rides a shrewd yet panicky flow, with tension-building backdrops of post-rock, boom bap, assorted samples, and field recordings. The sounds evokes a sense of being consciously helpless. Reindeer is very acclimatized, with his ear to the ground, but the irony is in the heightened reality of danger.
Despite a fairly consistent tone, both musically and lyrically, there are many avenues in theme. The album was curated across a long frame of time; regardless of how things are compiled, mixed, and mastered, there is intrinsic nuance and a loose stream-of-conciousness in the writing. Because of the arduous magnum-opus approach (Reindeer included in his personal thoughts that he approached the album as though it was his first and last), and the dominant post-rock timbres, Field Reports
’ subtle agit-prop is probably destined to bubble under its zeitgeist. Lottie Brazier’s recent Pitchfork article “How Musicians Are Using Field Recordings to Capture the Politics of Place”, published mere days after the album’s release, would’ve been a timely medium to spotlight what is a pretty definitive example of such music; as I expected before reading, he was overlooked. Ah well. Think positive thoughts.
Reindeer impressively cages his music in claustrophobia while also globetrotting, collecting place attachments. Songs like the titular “fieldreportsfromwesternlands” feel windy and exhilarated, with mentions of travel to Montreal, Toronto, Guelph, Rochester, and details including weather, physical symbolism, modes of transport. It can seem trivial, but it inadvertently breaks down the fetishization of travel as something positive in its soul-searching. At times, the nervousness in his cadence reminds of cLOUDDEAD’s more sober moments, as he raps with a sneer. His enunciation can be captivating, barreling through the detours of songs like “Black Monoliths over Jerusalem”. We get images of a man half-possessed, hands hovering, and eyes rolled back with just sclera showing. “We Are Shot with Wounds Beneath a Chemical Sky” sees more industrial influence and manipulation, with thick undulations and a mechanical sound that morphs to the climate.
Throughout his creation, Reindeer is often torn between physical here
and mental there
, anxious in how a current landscape draws comparisons to somewhere else, and it follows like a pushpinned map on a "crazy wall”. Rich, bustling urban landscapes are stripped near-bare and painted with tones of ruin and decay, and Reindeer’s persona is acute while suffering the onsets of delirium. Listening to Field Reports from the Western Lands
is like watching intentionally-placed footage, trying to piece together a dark narrative as it unfolds into a self-fulfilling prophecy.