Album: Take Off And Landing
Artist: Yoshinori Sunahara
Label: Bungalow (Europe), Ki/oon (Japan)
Release: 1999
Summary: A vivid painting of how air travel should be.

This album is an impressive achievement.  Composed and produced by Yoshinori Sunahara - practically a de facto spokesman for the iconic, erstwhile Pan American World Airways - Take Off And Landing is a tremendously detailed and visual work.  It evokes the glory days of flight, when air travel was the adventures of pioneers as opposed to the air-marshalled, routine drudgery that seems now to form most people's experiences.  Reminiscent of a time when flight was glamorous, synonymous with discovery and exploration, when airline pilots were celebrities second only to astronauts and stewardesses were like 50s movie stars.

Take Off And Landing is the first in a series of airport-themed electronic/ambient/dance/funk productions from Sunahara, followed closely by Pan Am - The Sound of '70s and Tokyo Underground Airport.  Heavily-processed samples anchor several of the tracks firmly in that optimistic spirit of the youthful skyways, without harming the album's extremely modern and groovy feel.  It is produced to death, and I've never heard anything like it (that's a literal description, not an attempt at a superlative).  It is also probably the only album I own with steel drums on it. If you like Cornelius, Susumu Yokata or... hmm, LFO maybe, there's a fair chance you'll like this.

kthejoker says re Take Off And Landing: Sunahara is highly reminiscent of Stereolab and The Pizzicato Five. Probably more so than Cornelius (though they're not unsimilar, either.)

Album opener Information of TUA (Tokyo Underground Airport) starts with a juxtaposition of increasingly oversped recordings of a home environment, trains and buses with the serene bustle of an airport with an announcer making its introduction.  Textured synths overlaid with muffled tannoy announcements give a feeling of activity and departure, fading on a high but relaxed note.  Crosswind Take Off is frankly a very silly track which had me rolling about laughing for the first couple of listens, but is a pleasing illustration of the attention to detail of the recording.  In-flight tannoy announcements and flight instruction tapes are scratched, chopped and oversped to insanity while air traffic control transmissions chatter away in the background of a rough beat which is also not free from a common interference pattern of Take Off And Landing: beats are overlaid, paused for a random sample or 2-second serene interlude or wound up to ridiculous speeds before continuing like nothing happened.

Magic Sunset St. is rather a repetitive track but is still reasonable, with heavily-processed and chopped vocals accompanying an odd cross between a dance beat with a ride cymbal in the background giving a teensy bit of jazz in there.  My favourite part of this track is an unintelligible female vocal drenched in reverb which gives an odd feeling of the calm of a point of departure. Not the album's high point, though.  SONY Romantic Electro Wave is a swinging relax-fest with gentle steel drums and a processed vocal that I can only occasionally make out.  Orchestral elements and gently and slowly scratched samples make me feel like I'm watching a sunset from the window of a 744 at flight level 410 (sorry, I can't help it - I say 'ay-firm' instead of 'yes' now, too).

Sun Song '80 is a track given Bossa Nova treatment in Pan Am - The Sound of '70s.  It opens with cooing doves and drives into a rolling beat with upbeat, understated electric guitars and pianos with a terribly sincere female vocal. Very little beat-messing in this track, which segues (actually with a fading chop) into 2300 Hawaii.  This is another curious track stuffed with samples, slow interrupted beats, scratched synths and a looped news clip about the Nixons which is processed so differently each time it almost sounds like you're listening to a whole broadcast.  Towards the end of the track this is looped repeatedly at increasing speed while a great textured synth rises in accompanying tone. In the last 30 seconds this is subject to the most awesome bit of scratching I've ever heard (I'm not talking DJ-type scratching here - this is something different altogether) that alternately makes me grin then drop my jaw, seguing nicely into a similar opener for Count Down.

Although this isn't really a music track, it's one of my favourite on the album for the feeling of anticipation it creates.  A constant, beaten synth is backing for channel-faded news clips from the Apollo launches giving a great feeling of the building excitement and tension leading up to the launches, which is sadly absent in the public (me included, it must be said) today.  This blends into a dance track which is backing for a reading from the writing of Louise Huebner (the self-proclaimed 'Official Witch of Los Angeles')...

Since Witchcraft attempts to deceive, cajole and otherwise disturb natural inclination and occurrence, then so too, with bits of color, attitudes and words, do children, politicians, actors, and women in love ~ weave spells; the success of which many times is dependent entirely upon the magic of their confidence.

...followed by radio communication from an astronaut, looped and processed to absurdity.  Further interest is added with more pausing, slowing beats and overspeeding. The track pauses in the middle for a clip from an old advert for Pan Am's Space Clipper service, followed some stuttering insanity and dialogue from a children's storybook about the moon which ends up sounding like a clip from a cheesy black & white movie about a moon holiday.

Life & Space is a track I found rather annoying at first, as it has a very short clip of dialogue repeated over and over again for most of its length (you'll probably be hating on the word 'cavalcade' after the first couple of listens), but I've come to find it very relaxing against its backdrop of serene piano and soft synths, with the odd disparate sample thrown in for good measure.  No Sun is one of the more conventional tracks on the albums - a dance beat backing a repetitive vocal without too much variety, save for the occasional pauses and scratches.  The Good Timing of World of Love Song is also not a track as such, but has a beautiful-though-sadly brief choral interlude bookended with bells ringing and softened applause, which has so far given me a smile and goosebumps every time. The track winds up at the end with sounds of surf winding up into the bouncing, swinging Summer.  The fuzzy beat, processed steel drums, unidentifiable samples and textured backdrop give it a very upbeat and happy feel.

My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose is something of an aberration, with sounds of flowing water backing a string introduction to what either is, or is made to sound like, an old vinyl press of... My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose ("My love is like a red, red rose/That's newly sprung in June/My love is like the melody/That's sweetly played in tune..").  The majority of the track is just noisy, hissy male vocals with piano backing (occasional electronics playfully swooping in the background), with strings coming back in towards the end. Its inclusion as a patent musical antique is curious but it does, with a final sample of a jet swooping in to land, provide a splendid counterpoint to the next track.  Album closer Welcome To Japan comes back in full fidelity; a hi-tech, warbling electronic sound with a tremendously infectious, bouncing snare-driven beat I defy the listener not to bob their head to.  The sound grows with soaring synths, processed guitars and tannoy announcements from our airliner and destination airport.  It marks the conclusion of our journey, welcoming us to our destination and, with a backdrop of calm monotones, bidding us a heavily-accented goodbye.

As someone who has never flown commercially and has only ever been to airports to tour their air traffic control facilities, it is quite likely that I have been sucked into the bright, happy world the album paints (to say nothing of the fond snaps of 70s/80s airline brochures in the liner notes) to the exclusion of reality.  So what, I say.  I'm enjoying this delusion of possibility and optimism that I imagine the world felt at the embrace of commercial flight and dawn of the space age.  I'm keeping the Speedbird, I'm keeping the Blue Meatball, I'm keeping the Connie.  Wake me up when we reach Mars.

  1. Information of TUA - 2:49
  2. Cross Wind Take Off - 3:41
  3. Magic Sunset St. - 5:53
  4. SONY Romantic Electro Wave - 4:35
  5. 2300 Hawaii - 7:18
  6. Count Down - 1:22
  7. Journey Beyond The Stars - 7:03
  8. Life & Space - 8:11
  9. No Sun - 8:02
  10. The Good Timing of World of Love Song - 2:41
  11. Summer
  12. My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose - 3:23
  13. Welcome to Japan - 4:47

This is my first music review. Have mercy.

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