REVIEW: Visions of Us on the Land

Throughout his Maraqopa Trilogy, Damien Jurado has become more comfortable with the notion of a concept album.  The first entry, Maraqopa, was only a loose interpretation of the narrative form.  The second, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun, was significantly grander in scale and imagery.  In the final installment, Visions of Us on the Land, Jurado presents a sweeping 17-track epic that feels more ambitious – and more complete – than the rest of the trilogy.

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The sonic palette in Visions is just as diverse as its beautiful album art: brooding and peaceful, vivid and abstract, earthy and spacey.  “TAQOMA” intimidates with its swelling harsh noise, contrasting the serenity which follows in “On the Land Blues.”  The album begins with “November 20,” which washes over the listener in waves of densely layered sound; it ends with “Kola,” which is sparse in its instrumentation and direct in its lyrics.  “Queen Anne” feels immediate and intimate, unlike the preceding “A.M. AM” which sprawls in distant spaces.

For all its psychedelic experimentation, Visions is an easily accessible singer-songwriter project.  While reverb distances most the vocals from the intimacy found in previous cuts from the trilogy such as “Working Titles” or “Silver Joy,” the album still strikes true as Jurado ponders existential questions (“Prisms”), paints compelling narrative portraits (“Orphans in the Key of E”), and recognizes a divine presence and absence in his wanderings (“Exit 353”).

\\ Watch the captivating video for “Exit 353” here \\

Another defining quality of Visions of Us on the Land is its lurking nostalgia.  Textures from the 60s, 70s, and 80s linger in the background like a memory half-forgotten and a dream half-remembered.  It’s hard to explicitly name what ties Visions to the atmospheres of the past, but the connections are undoubtedly felt.  Perhaps it’s the ties to the rest of trilogy that creates this feeling.  Visions is not just a continuation of the musical themes of Maraqopa and Brothers and Sisters.  It also incorporates elements that made its predecessors so interesting, even explicitly referencing a motif of “Silver Timothy” in “Mellow Blue Polka Dot.”

While the narrative is still abstract, Visions of Us on the Land is a relatable, exciting, and satisfying concept album.  Jurado has delivered a grand conclusion to a fine trilogy.  As lofty as its ambitions may be, Visions is grounded in authenticity.  Not only does this album demand many returns, but it elevates the rest of the trilogy with its outstanding finale.  Over these last albums, Damien Jurado has proven to be a frontrunner in experimental songwriting, and Visions of Us on the Land is perhaps his masterpiece.

Check out Damien Jurado on the Web and catch a show on his upcoming tour.

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