Greiving can create a lot of things like the longing of a slower, far awhile life, with trees in place of concrete, cultivated earth instead of quickly crafted emails, the time and space to be bored and let you dreams and passions wander into these crevices. Such is the message and method Reaches' "The Land is Kind” is created under. Frustrated by the brutal hustle and endless busy of big city life Justin Randel, the multi instrumentalist known as Reaches, moved to the countryside to carve out free time, to heal from terminal burnout and to allow the youthful romance of making your own fun reenter their life.
“Everyone’s moving so fast,” Justin Randel intones over the opening notes of his latest album under his baroque pop project Reaches, vocalizing a longing that sparked off this body of work, and found him far afield from his former home in New York City. Randel sought solace in the quiet woods of the Hudson Valley, settling into a spare but deliberate new lifestyle matched by a quiet, methodical studio practice. The result, eight new tracks showcasing Randel’s ample time to record and experiment in solitude, is a look at a new way of living, and a reflection on the worlds we build when we follow our instincts and inclinations.
The Land is Kind continues Reaches’s intuitive cross-pollinations of material and technique, working through the tropes and tricks of electronic music and dance production in pursuit of skeletal, sparse tracks that lend the artist’s deep voice and direct lyrics an added emotional clout. “Why not start today,” he sings over “Stop Cycle in The Land,” a buoyant construction of glimmering synthesizers and skittering percussion that carries the theme of his new material, building into a moment of screaming catharsis over clusters of sound before drifting off into the broken dub arrangement of “History is Longer Than Ourselves.”
Continuing a project already informed by a sense of wide-eyed wonder and a renewed passion for the process itself, Randel’s work strikes a potent key in the current moment. As the U.S. seeks a new equilibrium following the current pandemic, and looks towards a cultural and political landscape drastically changed by its impacts, The Land is Kind seems to embrace stillness and reflection as a possible way to move beyond the trauma and turbulence of the current moment. “I”m satisfied,” Randel sings on “Psychiatrist with a Sample Bin,” “laying on this beach, wondering if the tide will raise and take me.” In this moment, stuck between pandemic spikes and a fraught election year the idea of floating off, carried away by the natural world, seems strangely soothing, and simultaneously fitting for the moment at hand. By contrast, “The Forest Provides Air” shifts towards another option, a communal empathy born of self-reflection. “It’s not you or me,” sings guest vocalist Veronica Torres of P.E. and Pill, “it’s all of us.” This line seems to summarize the significance of Randel’s vision on The Land is Kind, that while the need to re-evaluate life and rediscover its simplest joys is often done in isolation, the experience is one we can all share, especially in this new body of work.