Friday, June 5, 2020
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Artist: Unknown Land (@)
Title: Dark Seasons
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Unknown Land is a unique artistic collaboration between Lucia Ponticas (Chile) and Rob Bryant (Australia), two musicians on opposite sides of the earth, making music through satellites in space. The project was conceived in 2015 after Lucia and Rob met on twitter, promoting their respective solo projects "Lucia Fenix" and "Bare Island". Very quickly they realized their styles complimented each other perfectly, and Unknown Land was born. Despite living in two different cultures, speaking different languages and even when one's days are the other's nights, their passion for music prevailed. The discography of UKLD consists of four productions, the debut album 33° (2016), the subsequent EPs REDLINE (2017) and UNO (2018), and their latest album, 'DARK SEASONS' (2019). Lucia contributes all the vocals as well as lyrics and some synth work, while Rob provides guitar, synth and percussion programming. I find it especially intriguing that these two have such a cohesive and distinct sound being virtually worlds apart in distance.

The album is a brief one, only eight tracks in just 34 minutes which assuredly leaves you wanting more. This isn't synthpop, goth, industrial, EBM, or ambient. It's closest to darkwave but even then, different than what you might expect. While slightly similar to groups like Bel Canto and Chandeen, Unknown Land is more steeped in the downtempo realms of trip hop and shoegaze more than dream pop, although there are dreamy aspects as well. While the opener, "Gargoyle," is largely atmosphere and vocal calisthenics, "Kingdom," which follows is superb exotic melodic songwriting with a dreamy arrangement. "Tau" continues the exotica as Lucia's voice rises and descends low dancing on a musical topography in perfect balance with her voice. Rob's somewhat minimal rhythm is just enough to convey motion, which is all that's really needed here. As we get deeper into this work on "Cathedral," the vocal tends to blend more seamlessly into the music evoking a special sort of magic and symbiosis that transcends anything even remotely "pop". The distinctly shoegaze aspect of this album emerges full bloom in "Siren" when Rob conjures Robin Guthrie with gauzy, shimmering guitar. While there are cool lyrics in the song, it will be Lucia's wordless melodic refrain that will etch itself indelibly in your memory. The same is true for the wordless vocal opening of "moonlight" - "oohooh..ah...oohooh..ah...oohooh..ah...oohooh..ah..." - simple, but absolutely brilliant. And yes, there are lyrics that follow, but the brain remembers what stands out. In "Firelies" Lucia moves toward more lyric-oriented melodicism, still with a background of swirling, wordless vocal melody. The closer, "Hollow" ramps up the intensity on all levels bringing the album to a close with a satisfying conclusion but still leaving you wanting more. On a certain level I'm reminding of Collide, in the way kaRIN and Statik mesh together, but Unknown Land is still quite different from that industrial duo.

Seductive, immersive, and pulsing with promise in a deliciously dark setting, ‘Dark Seasons’ is as gorgeous and bleak as the album cover, an endeavor worthy of being picked up by well-known label (Echozone, are you listening?) as Unknown Land deserves much more exposure than they’re probably getting.