Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Alps (#9, 2008)

Head is peaking, into the clouds,
Body heavy, rooted in stone - you're The Alps.

"Labyrinths" from The Alps III (2008)

San Francisco's The Alps play more of that instrumental, cinematic, wide-screen mood music. But theirs is ethereal, dream-like and calming... like the soundtrack to an opium den. The same basic components make up most of the songs, but they're approached with different emphases. Piano, acoustic guitar, discordant but not unpleasant synthesizers, background fuzz lead, wordless vocals, xylophone.

Haven't tried this before, but I think I'm going to actually describe each song on the album. I don't think that's the strongest approach, but might as well experiment on this one.

1. "A Manha Na Praia" - A lively but quiet acoustic guitar figure, punctuated by xylophone, a bass synth drone and some zither gets layered on, some strumming eventually happens, then the edges fray. Hanging in space... like a cosmic trapeze artist, enveloped in cozy feedback. Earth recedes in the distance.

2. "Hallucinations" - Drums and bass lock in, and set the controls for the heart of low tide. Synth waves roll along, with guitar feedback and harmonious squelch riding above. A crescendo, or maybe just a slight shift in amplitude. In the open sea, does a mirage look like dry land? The night wind moans in sympathy, the barometer drops, and a storm of noise gathers. By morning, your raft is almost gone.

3. "Cloud One" - A slow acoustic strumbeat, then a descending line on piano. This sounds like a song. Slow, and the drums seem to be dragging it slower. Fuzz guitar solo below, or is it synthesized? The piano is growing insistent, but its legs are caught in the splashy cymbals.

4. "Trem Fanstasma" - Synth cicadas buzz occasionally, a bass guitar bullfrog croaks in the distance. Piano, xylophone and voice come out on the patio to enjoy the night air. It's peaceful and cool outside. The conversation is pleasant and relaxed. More wine?
[Great video.]

5. "Labyrinths" - The rhythm moves out, another descending piano line, a bed of subtle electric psych guitar, then the squelchy synths. The foreigner is in Italy on business, but he'd rather not go into specifics. No, he'll carry the case himself. A nod to the shady local that's been loitering around the hotel lobby all afternoon, who leaves immediately. The Embassy? Why, it's only a few blocks from here.

6. "Pink Light" - Wait, what? Two minutes of super-restrained Borbetomagus - saxes blow freely and intertwine amidst the reverberation. I'm not sure what happened.

7. "Echoes" - Now the synthesizers are intertwining, speaking in squiggles and bloops. A moaning woman intervenes, perhaps making peace. Or maybe trying to disable the irritable cybernetics. It never gets out of hand though, because they're in a silicon house of worship after all.

8. "Into the Breeze" - Like "Cloud Two." A slow acoustic strumbeat, then a descending line on piano. This is definitely a song. Slow, but the drums are trying to arouse it to wake. The piano and guitar respond, arising from the large pillows they'd reclined in - putting away the long pipe stem.

I can't believe I'm not finishing the 2008 Top 10 before October! How am I going to do the other eight 2000s before 2009's round-up?!

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