Shoegazer

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.

   

Lovelorn wants to know "What's Yr Damage"?

As clearly indicated by its title, What’s Yr Damage (6131 Records)the debut LP by Philly-purveyors-of-psychotronic-rock Lovelorn clearly pays tribute to two iconic ‘80s bands—the first of which being Big Fun whose one-and-only Stateside hit came in 1988 with “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It),” the bombastic-dance-pop-with-a-social-message classic featured in the homicidal-high-school-rom-com Heathers (the second greatest movie ever made!) with its iconic catch phrase “What’s your damage?”; and the second of which being Black Flag, the iconic California hardcore-sters whose debut LP Damaged (1981) served as a paganistic paean to teenage alienation and craving (“Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie!”) with squalls of squalid guitar courtesy of Greg Ginnwhich isn't to dismiss the other influences at play here (industrial, shoegaze, dream pop, trip hop, who knows what else!) and despite being released two months ago it still sounds pretty darn good.

Across the album’s ten tracks the duo of Anna and Patrick place these disparate sonic fragments into close proximity like tectonic plates colliding and coalescing and forming into massive land masses and, I mean, just take a listen to the album’s second track “Sickness Reward,” which kicks off with an ambient Cabaret Voltaire-y soundscape (R.I.P. Richard H. Kirk) that's soon overlaid with a massive industrial-disco beat and heavy synth, and then stripped down to a minimal electro-pop groove when the vocals first enter, and then built back up again but with a growing sense of sonic disorder seeping in around the edges (the manic guitar, the power-drill synth) and be sure to check out the music video too (dir. Daniel Fried) which opens with a flipped Cannon Films logothe production studio that put out the greatest piece of cinema ever Ninja III: The Domination (don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the first two) and I’m hoping the eventual sequel to this video sees the field-and-track athletes inexplicably attacked by a crazed ninja but I digress. 

Anyway, this is a record that really creates its own lane. And likewise for the lyrical content which addresses such serious topics as eating disorders, mental illness, and creating one's own lane (shades of Big Fun again and yes I know I know) but which also captures pure desire in the starkest of terms (“Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie”) or as Lovelorn themselves put on it on "Tiger," the final track of What’s Yr Damage: “I justify what I want / I already waited too long.” (Jason Lee)

   

VIDEO: ‘Anvil’ | Lilly

photo credit: Athena Merry

 

Liily are four Los Angeles musicians—Dylan Nash, Sam De La Torre, Charlie Anastasis & Maxx Morando—who, up until now, were mostly known for their manic and cacophonous live shows. Those performances, alongside a couple of early singles packaged together into an EP entitled I Can Fool Anybody In This Town, drove the band to some surprising early successes. Now, Lilly have returned from the sonic depths with a new track, “Anvil,” taken from their eagerly-awaited debut long-player TV or Not TV and an accompanying music video. And it must be said that the shoegazey vibe they’re sending out with this latest work is both hard-hitting and compelling. 

 

The track begins with sedate drums and slightly overdriven but gently-strummed electrics guitars, woozy with vibrato, with bass and vocals gradually entering (“I’ve made my death bed a lifetime too short / I like my hands on the steering wheel, already on course”). When the band unleashes the full shoegaze onslaught of massively distorted guitars, searing drums and ride cymbals, and mountainous bass, it’s a real punch to the face, even if you’re only listening through earbuds. The minimal chord changes during the chorus are tasteful and an impressive example of the “less is more” school of songwriting. 

 

The video for “Anvil” (directed by De La Torre), meanwhile, chooses to contrast the sonic heft of the track with an odd choice of imagery: various snails are filmed interacting with each other in a doll house that seamlessly melds into a sort of wooded wonderland, complete with color-changing lights, offering an incongruous picture of the shelled gastropods interacting with common domestic amenities, like chairs, sofas, and desks. it’s a surreal, vivid collection of scenes that gain no small amount of added emotional weight form the muscle of the music. 

 

Lilly has just begun a month-long tour that will end with them playing The Troubadour on Friday October 29th. Gabe Hernandez

 

   

Shoegazer

Time: 
19:30
Band name: 
Activity
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
Facebook.com/activitysongs
Venue name: 
Schubas
   

Shoegazer

Time: 
19:00
Band name: 
Activity
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
Facebook.com/activitysongs
Venue name: 
Ortlieb’s