Exposé Online banner

Alpine Decline — Disappearance
(Tenzenmen 152tzm, 2011/2013, CD)

Alpine Decline — Night of the Long Knives
(Tenzenmen 155tzm, 2013, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2014-04-23

Disappearance Cover artNight of the Long Knives Cover art

When I last checked in with Alpine Decline (reviewing their first two releases), this LA duo had relocated to Beijing to ply their murky, distorted psychedelic shoegaze sound in a city that seems particularly suited to their style. Modern industry clashes with centuries of tradition in in a toxic haze of man's creating, and nothing seems clear or direct. Disappearance is another small step forward for Zeitlin and Mu; while it starts out with a heavily distorted wash of sound (guitars? keys?) that gradually fades in, there are moments of near-clarity, as if a wind has arisen and cleared the smog for a few minutes. Sometimes I'm reminded of The Black Angels, though Alpine Decline are generally even more fond of drenching their music in reverb. Quite often, the vocals, in addition to being rather low in the mix, are treated with distortion and other effects. A particular favorite is "The Other Side," which features a combination of massively distorted guitar chords, a twangy guitar with an almost surf-rock part, echoey keyboard chords, throbbing drums, groovy percussion, and vocals that sound like the echoes of a dream you can't quite remember. One of the band's main features, and what makes Disappearance so listenable, is their inclusion of atmospheric, contemplative pieces like "In Such a Place," where the mood is melancholy, with an edge of impending danger rather than pristine beauty.

Night of the Long Knives, while staying within the boundaries established by previous releases, gives an overall impression that is moodier, with more tunes that focus on slower tempos, and more emphasis on the expansive atmospheres. If there was any anger present in the past, about the state of the world or whatever, it's been supplanted by something more like sad recognition. We find ourselves at peace, at least superficially, though peace has failed to bring much joy, or event comfort. This is psychedelic rock viewed through a dark kaleidoscope, obscured not by clouds, but by the fumes of industry. We're still alive, and can still grasp moments of something like happiness here and there, but there's no ignoring the reality around us or the darkness ahead. Or maybe I'm misconstruing the band's intentions, caught up in the mood they've created. It's hard to decipher the lyrics, which might be less bleak than I imagine. In either case, Alpine Decline is the master of the windswept realm they inhabit, and I'm glad I visited, even if I wouldn't want to live there.


Filed under: Reissues, 2013 releases, 2011 recordings

Related artist(s): Alpine Decline

More info
http://alpinedecline.bandcamp.com/album/disappearance
http://alpinedecline.bandcamp.com/album/night-of-the-long-knives

Latest news

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the ago of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Live at Bickershaw Festival - North West England 1972 – The front of the package proclaims "Joe Strummer's favourite concert." Well, I'm sure it was great to be there. The Captain and his crackshot '72 touring lineup (Rockette Morton,...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues