There is something special about the music of Daniel Land. His vocals are always angelic and unapologetically vulnerable, and they lay upon musical arrangements that channel the likes of Robin Guthrie and Talk Talk. His albums are some of the best dreampop and The Dream of the Red Sails is no exception. Entrancing and flowing, each track moves into the other like lucid dreams and floating visions. Each moment is a bright piece of solar infusion but with an underlying melancholy. It’s like spring but contemplative, holding a wave of sorrow at bay. Written during 2016 during the turmoil of Brexit and astonishingly sad election of Trump, it’s no wonder Land’s dreampop vision exudes a hopefulness as a barrier to the impending tsunami of depression that could engulf one amid so much ignorance and racism.
The Dream of the Red Sails opens with a dreamy instrumental called “Capistrano Beach”. Warm, glowing, and utterly intoxicating, this Guthrie-esque invite into the world of Red Sails is enticing to say the least. “Summer Song” is rightly titled as its warm glow envelops the listener with reverb-edged acoustics and stripped down, poppy percussion. Land, in his beatific voice, croons over the floating sonic stream that has an underlying, subtle bass. “Long Before the Weather” is even more stripped down and its bald beauty sits on the surface as Land leads the listener in a song that drips with longing and nostalgia. “Still Closed” is a brief piece that cuddles your brain and lulls it into a dream-state. A soulfully sorrowful aural bath, Land sings his ballad to the United States as it spirals into chaos.
“Under a Red Sky” really feels like it could have been inserted into In Love with a Ghost. Swaying in its measure, “Under a Red Sky” invites the listener to concede all control to the swinging, gentle lullaby as Land spins magical poetic yarns. “Self-Portrait in Autumn Colours” strikes me as a poetic march to quietness. Breathing vocals into his mic, Land courts the listener with a dulcet vibe. “Starless” stands out as a louder track, hearkening back to the likes of “New York Boogie-Woogie”. Brighter and fuller, the Talk Talk under-girding influence shines here as Land really letting his vocals soar. “Alone in America” brings the listener back down to earth as the events during the period of recording come through on this track with the U.S. going down the tube as the racist fueled Brexit comes into focus back in Britain, Land’s home. Sorrowful and somber, “Alone in America” is an expression of nostalgia brought into the present.
“Fleur de Mâle” is a warm bridge to the last part of the album. A flowing instrumental with light high-hat, ethereal drones, and a beautifully written melody expressed on guitar and piano, the piece is an inviting seqway into “Skindivers”, the penultimate piece on The Dream of the Red Sails. In “Skindivers”, a romantic reminiscence permeates the piece as that entrancing swing rhythm returns under Land’s poetic prowess. The finale to The Dream of Red Sails is called “Cobalt Blue” and it begins with a delayed guitar line that floats along and creates this wonderful mystical atmosphere. It is the stage for Land’s poetic exit on this album and it really is stunning. There is a full band here, but very subtle and subdued. The bass work in particular is one of my favorite pieces of this sonic puzzle.
The Dream of the Red Sails is another dreampop masterpiece from Daniel Land’s brilliant artistic soul. Recorded mostly in California, the album bleeds of wonder but not without an underlying nostalgia and a sense of heartache. On par with one of my favorite albums of the last decade, In Love with a Ghost, The Dream of the Red Sails should be on everyone’s play list. Click the Bandcamp link below and purchase a copy. I highly recommend it!