Overarching expectations drive mistakes when listening to an artist’s debut album stockpiled with immeasurable star power. Name dropping Steve Albini, Red Hot Chili Pepper Ryan Hewitt, Warpaint’s Jenny Lee Lindberg, and former Interpol bassist Carlos Dengler begs the obvious question: Can an album bear this level of encyclopedic indie rock prestige sprinkled throughout wide-ranging song stylings ever measure up to its potential?
For Alister Fawnwoda’s project Alle, the answer is yes. The DJ/multi-instrumentalist’s album Mara invites listeners into multiverses of genres – symphonic, freak folk layered with melancholy lap steel guitar leads, future beat, and trip-hop textures. “Soot” begins with a quiet/loud dynamic known all-too-well in the indie rock canon. Shoegaze textures reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, including hazy vocals and a reverb-drenched atmosphere. Then something grossly unexpected occurs. Strings swell and blanket a track diametrically opposed to the opening track on “Klin.” The only consistency between the opening tracks is the mood. The mood created throughout Mara is mysterious, heavy, poignant.
“CoStar” explores Flying Lotus’s territory, if Steven Ellison braved departing his sounds of psychosis and interjected War Paint’s Jenny Lee Lindberg’s vocals and lap steel sounds reminiscent of The Cowboy Junkie’s Trinity Sessions. The tempo disappears, removing percussion in place of tonality, which is consistent with Fawonda’s visual art influences. Alle paints his tracks using warm tones across space-limited canvases. “Swallowing Silver” fogs and mists and darkens without overdamping.
Album singles either overhype or obscure an album’s full possibilities. Mara’s non-obvious single “Creatincos Velve” does neither. The sparse piano notes coupled with Portishead tones fail to make the single stand out; instead, “Creatincos Velve” holds an otherwise genre-hopping album together.
“Una” ends a conspicuously remarkable debut devoid of charisma and charm. The strings from “Klin” return and the colors become monochrome. And it is hard to identify the star-filled names mentioned at the beginning of this review – and purposely left out – to distinguish Alle as someone with famous friends, but an artist who also distinguishes himself from the rest of his well-established peers.
Image Credits: Photo by Chester Pink.