The Alps

III (Type)

This is the third offering from S.F. psych-folk supergroup the Alps, aka Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (Tarentel), Alexis Georgopoulos (Arp, ex-Tussle), and Scott Hewicker (Troll). It's also the group's first official studio album. Phil Manley of the Champs and Trans Am stepped in behind the boards, lifting the band from the fuzzy opacity of its tape-hiss past into something approaching high fidelity. Not that the disc doesn't still scream relic. It would sit comfortably in a genre we'll call Spooky Europe — Goblin's Dario Argento soundtracks, Popol Vuh's wonderful Werner Herzog accompaniment, the slew of exploratory Krautrock records dotting record geek collections, and even Pink Floyd at its jammiest (it's worth noting here that the seventh track is titled "Echoes").

The fuzz guitar on opener "A Manha Na Praia" reaches its tendrils deep into the brainpan, while "Hallucinations" lays soft blankets of melodic noise and piano over a plodding groove. "Pink Light" recalls William Basinski's minimalist-inspired sonic experiments with its short woodwind loops and slow sonic degradation. The rumbling throat singing of "Echoes" gives the stoned proceedings a spiritual air, while "Into the Breeze" gently delivers you to New Age's experimental roots.

The credits in the liner notes are telling, explaining "all instruments played by the Alps" in a list of more than 30 items, including "Moon Guitar" and "Cloud Guitar" alongside the more straightforward "Fender Twin Reverb." The Alps' members use whatever they get their hands on — glockenspiel, autoharp, sax, and other acoustic instruments take as prominent a role as guitar noise and effects pedals. But the result is far more cohesive than the toys in the group's sandbox might imply. The Alps have clarified their hazy vision, serving up something a little less folksy, a helluva lot better recorded, and even more droning and hypnotic.

 
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