Features | Awards

The Huston and Hawks Award for Most Bana-Noirs Video of the Year

By P.M. Goerner | 18 December 2012

L A N D: “City of Glass”

Personally, I’m still not sure where to place the familiar fedora-sporting mystery fellow haunting the edges of L A N D’s spellbinding video for “City of Glass” (which actually just features the instrumental version of the only track with vocals on their enthralling debut, Night Within, which regrettably went without a proper review this year; David Sylvian makes a grand gesture of the vocal version, and only enhances the record’s strangely mystifying minimalism in the best way imaginable). This video was certainly one of the more absorbing ones I got caught up in this year, and my report of the strange details is as follows.

It was all a haze, but still I couldn’t help but speculate as to exactly what was happening between the veils of neon-lit cigarette smoke lighting up at different angles from my new vantage point in a sunken corner table. Was that the shoe-polished ghost of Humphrey Bogart, wandering through the settling smoke of an ethereal, half-remembered soundstage? Was that an inverted Talk Talk sample slowly bringing to waking noir that aforementioned soundstage, somehow reproduced tone for tone by a nodding tuxedoed drummer? Is this some penetrating jazz the London experimental duo’s making or what? Come to think of it, I may have encountered Satan in that place once, dreaming or drugged as I might have been, and stumbling past that manicured fellow whose careful dress betrayed the unraveling of the evening and the revelers that filed through it, sharing a cigarette with David Sylvian and chuckling as he exuded a sort of sublime invitation to casual indulgences and back-alley blood contracts. Is he there again, floating through L A N D’s futurist speakeasy and taking it one step at a time, catching up with Bogie’s sauntering trail? Or does he own this place…?

As it turns out, it’s just as likely that our fellow’s only a mannequin. He doesn’t give a lot away in the pictures we got, or this mystifying video for that matter. I woke up on a red leather couch the morning after my escapade and found his suit laid carefully on the same booth table where he’d passed me that case of the shivers. And when L A N D’s Daniel Lea and Matthew Waters each shouldered open one of the tinted doors to the rushing wash of their self-described “geometric cymbals,” we could only assume that there was no one left in the city at all. Alices in a narcotic Wonderland, we’d simply stumbled into the reflection of something just as quickly hidden away again, neon strobing in the periphery before dissipating into the atmosphere. When we turned to gather our jackets, it had all disappeared. We speculated. How much had we invented…? Maybe the patrons had all been made victims, like they knew for so long that they would be, of their own hard-coded vices and careening libidos. Maybe they were all cutting the crusts off of their children’s white bread sandwiches in the next town over.

Either way, less and less evidence and fewer traces only lead us, and the mystery man no doubt (as I’d suppose that he’s at least a step or two ahead of us for his own secret reasons), to larger and larger questions. The need to discover the truths behind the translucent panels and five-way mirrors that proliferate in that trans-imaginary capitol night after night, between local strangers and foreign lovers alike, surely leads him on an endless paved maze through those dead carnival streets. Maybe he’s just waiting for us to show up again, but I couldn’t seem to get back to that place no matter how hard I tried. Occasionally one of the night wanderers’ painted faces, blown up with apocalyptic laughter, would pop up in the glare of a shop window as it reflected the one-sided conversation of a lonely traffic signal. But Lea and Waters…they seemed hypnotized, completely filled with the need to memorialize their experiences and the attitude of that place. I heard they had some good luck talking to Sylvian about his own similar experiences in the mysterious city. He was the only one who believed us, anyway. Last they told me, he’d revealed that crafting and traversing a portal was indeed possible, but only with the right instruments, Ben Frost programming bass, and the quiet of Iceland…