Lansing-Dreiden: The Dividing Island

The Dividing Island

No photos, no interviews, no member names: If there's one thing Lansing-Dreiden invites, it's speculation. Is the band (let's call them that just for convenience's sake) resisting commodification? Are one or more members fugitives from justice? Or is their evasiveness a simple stab at making critics miserable by denying them individual praise and blame pegs? Does it matter? The identity obfuscation game is so rare in rock that to play is to automatically win by default. So far this century, L-D is ahead by a mile. Like their claims to multimedia-company-hood—bolstered by irregularly published para-fiction zine Death Notice and a well-documented presence in various visual media—the New York-based something-or-other-tet's rampant anonymity and dizzy rhetoric underscore a mystique-building effort unmatched since the Residents first donned eyeball heads in the '70s.

But the latter have almost always reeked of nerdiness; The Dividing Island finds Lansing-Dreiden waxing even more brutally suave than on the 2003 debut The Incomplete Triangle or 2004's The Sectioned Beam, their quantum blend of '60s exuberance, '80s (19 and 18) narcissism, and Philip K. Dick-grade extrapolation more potent than ever. Gliding into focus on a tom-tom driven boomfest juiced with just enough delay to give it a lascivious wiggle, the opening title track hints at either imminent human sacrifice or a whopping orgy, then suddenly flip-flops, abandoning woodwinds and languid strings for a snappy garage-psych attack complete with dueling butch-femme vocals. Each half of the song offers a funhouse mirror reflection of the other, united by just enough elliptical timing to lend a slightly proggish air to the whole.

It's not alone. Synth-pop loper "Two Extremes" excepted, the album partakes heavily of the progressive vibe currently sweeping heavy metal like a fire in a toothpick factory. Still, Lansing-Dreiden wisely wait until closer "Dethroning the Optimyth" to luxuriate in full metal glory, marrying angelic vocals, up-to-the-minute-after-next electronics, and caustic guitars with so much charm that even the stodgiest skeptic is bound to be charmed into submission, "company" or no.