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
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.
Related artist(s): Alpine Decline
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more