Gary Daly: Luna Landings – UK – CD 
- Odysseas Celestial Body
- Jody You’re On Dope, So Just Shut The F**K Up
- Technics Arpeggio
- Luna Bop
- And When Did You Give Up . . . And Why?
- Yellow Magic
- JP8 2
- 80’s Electro 2
- Space Bastard
- Guitar Instrumental 1
- Pipes Of The Man Ray Times
- Guitar Instrumental 3
- Magnifique Lune
- The Highest Heist
- A Once Great And Harmonious Place
- Very Nice Barbara
- Shopping For Excuses
- Swimming With Kevin
Holy Mackerel. In January of 2020 Gary Daly of China Crisis let it be known that “Luna Landings,” an album of his four-track instrumental demos intended for China Crisis songs of their 1981 to 1987 era was forthcoming. But at the time I was planning on a trip to England in March and was not buying anything. Then I was in lockdown and wondering if I would have an income any more. So none of this was conducive to buying CDs from England last year. I thought I’d have a chance to pick one up from Daly’s Music Glue store, but I recently noticed that about a year later, this puppy was OOP. At that very second I leapt to Discogs and bought the first copy I could get. Fortunately, the seller was selling it for reasonably close enough to the original cost, all things considered. Now it’s in the Record Cell and the anticipation has played out as expected.
As I’d mused earlier, anyone who was a China Crisis fan would surely have valued the band’s inventive and delightful B-side material. Many of which sure sounded like instrumental four-track demos of delightful beauty and ambience. This disc had proved that there were many more where those came from. Daly has always been a musician with an ability to frame a beautiful melody in a simple, straightforward way that gave the music a lot of emotional heft. And whether he used electronics or acoustic instruments to do this was irrelevant. The bottom line was that Daly makes music that I value and need to hear. Whether with China Crisis or as a solo act, he delivered the musical goods.
The program began with “Odysseas Celestial Body” to set the pace with lowing, ambient synth drones deep enough to dive into with some chiming highlights to sparkle on their surface. This let us know right from the start that not every song here would reek of China Crisis, as this was something that could have sat on a Roedelius or Conrad Schnitzler recording and we would not have batted an eyelash. And therein lay the beauty of this album. With their pop hits having made much of their reputation with the public, the band and Daly had much to offer that was not always so facile and easily digestible.
Some tracks here were indeed fragmentary sketches of the kind that explored a single bit of sound design or mood, and would not have found a home at any other time but this. As tracks like “JP8” or “Technics Arpeggios” would attest to. But it is interesting and worthwhile to hear the differences between “JP8” and the following track, “JP8 2,” where the melody of the first obviously informed the very different exploration on the second, where the vibe went from winsome to dark and cinematic.
“Luna Bop” would have been a classic China Crisis B-side, right up there with “Orange Mutt-Mutt Dance.” The sort of joyous melodies that Daly was always attracted to. And the sterling “Dummkopf” was something else entirely! The follow up to the Cab Volt outlier B-side that was “This Fascination” that I literally have been waiting 38 years to hear! I can’t help but wonder if there were more sounds of this nature in Daly’s bag of tricks?
The oddly titled “Space Bastard” offered celestial drone and tinkling, chiming synths that coalesced into a space choir vibe before it eventually broke down into a chaotic end with nearly subliminal sound bites that resisted comprehension. I swear I can hear the seeds of “We Are A Worker” in the aptly named “Guitar Instrumental 1” which stood here as if to say that it wasn’t all just machines at work here.
The longest track here was “Evángelos;” a melancholy tribute to Mr. Papathanassiou featuring a chorale of synths devoid of rhythm for a feel similar to the more ambient tracks on the China Crisis debut. I appreciated the crystalline delicacy of “Magnificent Lune” which showed that sometimes even four tracks was overkill when just a pair of monosynths were called for. The wet reverb on the rhythm box of “The Highest Heist” was a typical China Crisis maneuver as the lush tropical synths mapped out a territory similar to where Ralf + Florian went on their third [or was that fourth] album.
Many of the songs here would have slotted effortlessly on the flipside of a China Crisis 7″ or 12″ single. Still, others were explorations of sound at odds with where the band eventually ended up. These tracks ultimately recall the origins of the band as an electronic duo fully capable of making lovely, introverted music [heavy on the synths] that didn’t need to be put across in the live arena. In that sense, “Luna Landings” was a companion piece with “Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms [Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain].” It showed that the band we fell in love with in 1982 was still there, lurking underneath the tight musicianship and Steely Dan DNA that eventually got rolled into the band as they conquered the challenge of playing live concerts. The joy of “Luna Landings” was that it showed that the dreamer that was Gary Daly never really went away even as the output of the band changed into something more polished and professional over time. As much as I love those later recordings and songs, I’m also excited to hear the hidden roots of China Crisis get an outing as these songs have many delights to afford our ears all of these years later. This is an album that can play on a loop for hours of pleasure.