Somnambule - Writing About Music

Alexandroid ~ False Starts

Okay, I’m putting my hands up - I like lovely packaging so I must be very superficial (Apple, Rune Grammofon and ECM give good packaging). Of course this tendency makes me fatally unreliable when it comes to reviewing music. If the cd arrives in a badly designed package I’m likely to be less inclined to value the music. If you’re looking down your nose at me, then fair enough. Ask yourself a question though: if you’re shopping in Tesco’s and you have the money which do you choose: the Tesco’s saver brand with the blue and white wrapper or the aspirational, bourgeois packaging? Whatever your answer, we’re apparently all superficial in this respect. You can examine the rigorous testing undertaken by Stanford University’s Web Credibility Project if you doubt me. Of course in some forms of music poor or nonexistent packaging may presage high quality – you should see Absorb’s editor go weak at the knees at the sight of a white label – it’s blankness might just be hiding a demon piece of jungle, grime or whatever. The foregoing is a way round to observing that Alexandroid’s False Starts arrives clothed in notably unprepossessing graphics – they look like they were done in M$ Paint and then badly photocopied. Such is the nature of most promos put out by labels with minimal budgets. I reckon if they just went that extra mile or waited until the graphics were ready, they’d have a much better approval rate.

Down to the music. Alexandroid / False Starts / 18 songs / 72 minutes.

Ga Gain begins in ambient techno mode, all ethereal synth washes and 303 percussion sounds. About Life has a patient, gentle thread running through eddies and flickers of electronic sound, with attractive vocals in murmured, tired English. (Why note that the vocals are in English? Because Alexandroid is apparently Russian, though this doesn’t sound much like other music from that country that I’ve heard.) Dera is a jittery, electronic hoedown with what sounds like the ghost of a fiddle sawing away: fascinating and rather odd. 80 comes on a lot heavier with an attractive, careworn melody traced out over driving, stomping beats. Energy is built around Fender Rhodes chords and beautiful, strained singing: “come my friends, become me so” which makes such intuitive, if not grammatical sense that it almost brings a tear to my eye. My Lovemixdown presents angelic yearning vocals (“Oh my love I feel you, love is stronger than you’ve ever known” – damn right). Debil invites improvising trombone and clarinet onboard for some kind of trad jazz/electronica synthesis which is not as painful as it sounds. And so on. The variety, quality and confidence of Alexandroid’s music is remarkable. It’s nothing earth-shatteringly innovative, but there’s an encyclopaedic sense to the whole endeavour which is distinctly enjoyable. After it’s over it feels like you’ve travelled a good distance and gained experiences along the way.
Colin Buttimer
June 2004
Published by Absorb