Psych

KITTY COEN

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Alexalone: Lost in ALEXALONEWORLD

Alex Peterson is a guitarist, songwriter, graphic designer, and bandleader from Austin, and although alexalone was once their solo moniker (the name is a reference to the Japanese Zeuhl project RUINS-alone), alexalone is now a fleshed out five-piece band made up of some of Austin’s best musicians. Peterson is a true rocker, a professional as committed to shredding as they are to gigging and touring, and even though they have been a consistent fixture of the local indie rock and shoegaze scene for the past seven years, they haven’t always been at the forefront. alexalone is Peterson’s longest running project, and although it is a project which has undergone many iterations, their projects and performances have only become more ambitious and nuanced as the years have gone by.

ALEXALONEWORLD (which is the group’s first release on Polyvinyl Records) is an album that feels like the culmination of years of hard work, but perhaps more importantly, it feels like the beginning of a new era for the band. “Electric Sickness” kicks off the record with a meditative pulse: several layers of jangling guitars drone over a stoic bassline while Sam Jordan’s pocket drumming provides a steady motorik beat and the synths of Mari Rubio (aka more eaze) float delicately high in the mix. Peterson’s vocals are confident yet sensitive, and their tight harmonies with Hannah Read (aka Lomelda) instantly foster a sense of melancholy comfort. But as soon as the listener becomes settled into the song’s atmospheric warmth, it’s chorus suddenly appears, bisecting the track with intense blast bleats and soaring sludge guitar leads.Then, the verse returns—mellow and calm, as if nothing had happened at all. The magic of alexalone’s music reveals itself in disciplined shifts such as this:moments of juxtaposition which heighten the tension while simultaneously offering release. 

Transitions play an important role in all of alexalone’s music, and ALEXALONEWORLD’s seamless tracklist is no exception. The Boris-esque doom metal riff of the second track “Where in the World” towers above the swirling noise which precedes it, before resting into a dirge of spacey atmospherics that Peterson’s reverbed vocals glide on top of effortlessly. The track begins to build up energy at the end, only to be snuffed out by the cavernous sound of a piano’s strings being struck percussively. The shimmering intro of “Unpacking my Feelings” breaks down into a darker groove that’s reminiscent of Slint, ultimately reaching an aggressive and angular boiling point that seems to mirror itself in the violent and disjointed conclusion of the following track “Can’t Sleep”. Subtle electronics take the lead on the ethereal “Let it Go,” a song which acts as a melodic respite from the anguish of the preceding tracks. 

The lyrics on ALEXALONEWORLD are gloomy, but never defeatist. Throughout the albums there is a consistent tone of sorrowful confessionalism, but there is always an outlook of almost Tao-like struggle that’s present. This is perhaps best exemplified in the sprawling “Black Rainbow,” a 7-minute track whose spoken word sections carry the intimacy of a well guarded diary entry. The act of hearing these fearlessly honest lyrics occasionally verges on embarrassing, but their undeniable self-assuredness ventures beyond this to create a sense of intimacy rarely found in contemporary indie rock, a genre that’s often overwhelmed with surface-level sincerity. 

Lush with charisma, slowcore ballad “Ruins” is ALEXALONEWORLD’s standout track. The vocal melodies (again complemented by Read) are melancholy and impassioned to the point of possessing an almost goth-like confidence. I personally believe that Alex Peterson is the most inspired guitarist in Austin, and it is telling of their restraint that there is only one proper guitar solo to be found on ALEXALONEWORLD. This solo, reminiscent of Adrian Belew, Michio Kurihara, and Oren Ambarchi, rides out the conclusion of “Ruins”, and acts as a shamelessly epic climax for the album, transcending the carefully-cultivated depressive atmosphere without regressing into naivete.

The final track is the instrumental “Eavesdropper,” which serves as an epilogue for the record and fully leans into alexalone’s more minimalistic tendencies- a monotone bassline drones menacingly as Peterson’s theremin-like guitar feedback swoops in and out of dominance. In lieu of a linear chord progression, the track structures itself around stark volume dynamics which inevitably plow forward into a dense cacophony, then into silence- it is an expression of alienation which feels something like being on the verge of a panic attack in public. In the midst of a seemingly endless global pandemic which is disproportionately affecting Americans, the images of social anxiety and dread evoked by this album speak to an increasingly claustrophobic reality. These thematic undertones, along with it’s aesthetic contemporariness, are what makes ALEXALONEWORLD a truly accomplished record and alexalone’s best album — though plenty more, I hope, is yet to come.

alexalone can be seen live with Soccer Mommy on Friday, October 22nd at Emo’s.

   

Jude Shuma "Suzy Space Cadet"

Jude Shuma has released a new multi-media called "Suzy Space Cadet". This is one part 9-song album and one part comic book.

The comic portion was created by German artist Denise and both the comic and the album focus on a girl's incredible tour through the galaxy.

You can help Jude celebrate the released of his new project on October 18th at Schubas with James Swanberg.

   

Singled Out: "Love Bomb" by Phranque

“Love Bomb” is a title utilized by musical artists ranging from N*E*R*D to Nick Cave (with Grinderman) from British-reality-show-girl-group Girls Aloud to Korean-reality-show-girl-group Fromis_9 which isn’t really that surprising because the phrase itself lends itself to a wide range of interpretations whether it’s used to say something like “I’m gonna bomb you with my love bomb, baby” which sounds like a Zep-era Robert Plant lyric if there were a few more baby’s added at the end, but then it could also be used in a song about bombing with an attempted romantic connection, or about how obsessive love can be a destructive force, or about how amorous feelings can fall from the sky seemingly without warning.

Or (stick with me here!) a “love bomb” could refer to how love has been weaponized by the capitalist-imperialist elite to subjugate and indoctrinate "the sheeple" who are compelled to pair off into nuclear family units (kinda like nuclear bomb fallout shelters!) thus helping to mitigate the threat of a collective uprising against the ruling class while also acting as the driving force behind capitalist structures of exploitation and continuous economic expansion (because if you’re truly in love you’re gonna rush out and buy that new washer-dryer set on sale at Best Buy!) but hey it’s just a theory.

But it’s a theory I feel like Phranque may be on board with (not to be confused with lesbian folk singer Phranc!) on his/her/their/its newest single called (wait for it…) “Love Bomb” which contains lyrics like “the greatest love ever known / re-wire the brain and forfeit the soul” and “turn the toxic swan song upside down / carve your favorite amputee / blast away the world we see / liquid metal heart / from your love bomb” and look I didn’t say all the lyrics make perfect sense but you get the gist of what Phranque’s maybe trying to say.

Lest you miss the subtleties in the lyrics, the music of “Love Bomb” gets across a similar subtext of capitalistic false consciousness with its shiny musical surfaces (the propulsive garage-rock riffage) acting as a sweet candy-coating for the darker stuff underneath like the spooky-sounding organ (perfect for Halloween!) and the doomy chord progression (the bridge section in particular!) not to mention the lyrics.

So just imagine if ZZ Top had suddenly gone goth in the ‘80s right in the middle of their MTV-friendly Eliminator phase and you’re in the ballpark at least. But even more than ZZ Top the band “Love Bomb” reminds me of most of all is Blue Öyster Cult because if you took out “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” from that one scene in the original Halloween (1978) where it’s playing on the car radio as Jamie Lee Curtis and that other chick are driving around and smoking weed before the latter gets turned into chopped liver by Michael Myers and replaced it with the Phranque song under discussion I think it’d work pretty well.

And come to think of it some of their other songs remind me a bit of Blue Öyster Cult too because much like Long Island’s finest AOR rockers—BÖC are best known to the youth of today as an SNL punchline but back in the day they were cool enough to hang with Patti Smith—Phranque are not afraid to inject dark vibes and synthy textures into their sturdy rock tunes (check out “Mick & Keith Forever” off his/their last full-length 13 (La Cosa Nostra), or “Sea Winds” off Butcher the Scapegoat and peep those Blue Öystery vocal harmonies while you’re at it—nor afraid to inject some serious weirdness into the mix because Phranque’s albums are full of trippy instrumental interludes and other left-field touches. And hey maybe someday they’ll cover BÖC’s ”Joan Crawford” (1981) because that’s some crazy-ass shiz too but let’s just hope Phranque never becomes the butt of any cowbell-related future memes (stick to the maracas fellas!) featuring Christopher Walken. (Jason Lee)

   

VIDEO: Dinner | ‘Connection’

photo credit: Anders Rhedin

 

 

Dinner, the project from Danish multi-instrumentalist Anders Rhedin, premieres the Annabel Van Royen-directed music video for “Connection,” (featuring vocals from Molly Burch) the second single from Dinner’s new album Dream Work, due for release October 22nd on Captured Tracks

The track opens with an organic-sounding, lightly-phased synth pad that evokes hazy rays of morning sun breaking through an overcast sky, before arpeggiated guitar, drum and bass enter to support it. Rhedin’s baritone voice is not the most flashy instrument, but it carries an authentic vibe, as if your good friend or someone at an open mic were singing sincerely and intimately to you. The chorus, where Rhedin is joined by both a heavily-vibratoed lead guitar and the subtly ethereal backing vocals of Burch, is a pleasing, satisfying climax with a vibe halfway between 60s “groovy” and 2020s sheen. Rhedin walks a fine line here but the warm, three-dimensional production and the unfussy arrangement meld seamlessly.

The music video, meanwhile, goes for even more understated. Shot in a single location—a gently smoke-filled midcentury modern building in a sun-lit wood, a young woman in contemporary clothing alternately paces, plays with herself as if she’s a puppet, and flashes smiles for short moments before reverting to an expressionless visage. Regarding the video, director van Royen explains: "The video is a portrait of a young person expressing themselves with their body in the space and through connection with the viewer." Adds Rhedin: "I had many long talks with Annabel, the director. I thought I was going to be very involved with this video. But in the end, I just had to let go, and trust Annabel’s ideas and her vision. Let her creativity take over. I’m very glad that I did. To me the video is about a liminal state between reality and something else." Gabe Hernandez