REVIEW: L.A. Takedown

Kelly Kirwan

L.A. Takedown

It’s a title fitting of an '80s cult cinema classic, one with slow, rolling shots of five-lane highway urban expanses—filmed in orange and yellow hues with neon turquoise accents. If there was ever an album that paid homage to its home city, it’s this one. With L.A. Takedown, you don’t just listen to the waves of synth dipping between bass and elongated guitar strums (which build into high-rising riffs in their own right). You’re in it. Released via Ribbon Music, the eponymous new oeuvre stretches roughly forty minutes over the course of a single track. So, to speak in label terms, it’s more of a “suite” than an LP. It’s also paired with time-lapse videos of Los Angeles, filmed by various friends of those that have contributed to the L.A. Takedown sound (with Aaron M. Olson, of course, being its nucleus and creator). 

Currently streaming off their website, I first clicked into a pink-streaked SoCal sky, silhouettes of telephone wires and shaded leaves in the forefront. If you feel like I’m deviating from main topic, bear with me, as this “suite” is a careful balance of audio and visuals. One would be incomplete without the other. The fusion of film and music makes sense when you consider Olson’s background scoring short films for his friends, using the very pseudonym we have here (“L.A. Takedown” isn't just a nod to the sprawling, smoggy city, but also a wink at director Michael Mann). For his own project, Olson was inclined to make these images even more immersive, syncing LA sunsets in real time to his website. In fact, that lingering last hour of day is a central motif of this album. It mimics the waxing and waning of Olson’s music, which oscillates between deliberate, chugging beats and lazy, almost island-style interludes. 

One of the defining features of L.A. Takedown is its fluidity. With only one track (albeit one with a generous time stamp), Olson bridges the gap between lethargic, brooding tones and upbeat, jazzy ventures with such ease, you forget there was ever a difference at all. To reference the man himself, the album “segues from driving evocative thrusts to atmospheric suspensions of tension and style.” It’s a plunge into electronica and performance art as expansive and nuanced as the various neighborhoods of this well-known city. Through the swells and dips of instrumentals and synths (definitely inspired by Jan Hammer), you feel that magnetic, manifest-destiny pull to the west coast, and maybe even a little nostalgia for a good '80s heist movie (coiffed hair and all).

If you’re looking for something tangible after this flurry of landscape-meets-soundscape, L.A. Takedown’s 12-inch vinyl edition is out November 20th. Until then, click in to revel in Olson’s sound which straddles the old-school and experimental, finding a niche in that tension between opposites. And as for you? You’ll fall into daydreams of lead pedals and westward expansion. Olson’s out to convert us all.