"Writer, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and serial collaborator Alex Dunford has, after a long and tortuous gestation period, finally released a masterful album of exquisite, reverberant melancholy, full of keen, persistent melodies and darkly sculpted, piano-driven soundscapes under the name of Al_x.
With the aid of co-writers and vocalists (Jeff Jepson, Dom Veron, Kate Smith), themselves coming from worlds more akin to folk/blues/jazz/other, the album brings together vintage drum machines and synths, toy instruments, strings and string loops, acoustic guitars, Reverbs, Delays, and miscellaneous tools from Alex's menagerie of gear into a seamless and cinematic whole. The album is reminiscent of Brian Eno, Sigur Ros, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and Recoil. With these influences in mind, Alex takes us on journey through his tastes, his mind, and his favorite instruments in this collection of cinematic pieces and soundscape driven songs".
Mr. Dunford must be trained as a pianist, since it is the piano that drives the music here. Often it is disguised as some type of keyboard, and usually it is layered with synths and strings and various voices, but still, there, in the background is the piano. It shines through fully at only a few times, but i think that is intentional. The press materials stressed that Dunford is a "producer", meaning, to me, that he really put a lot of thought into the layering of the sounds here. And i think he really did a fine job.
The record kicks off appropriate enough with Intro, a nice ambient upswell to start the album. Then he launches into it with Here Before the centerpiece of which is a female vocalist, who has a high-pitched girly voice, like Alison Shaw from The Cranes. The music grows until it achieves a nice density, with layers of synths almost swamping her voice, before fading out to an outro of strings. Very lovely.
Bloom takes some mid-tempoed beats and the fast tremoloed guitar from a Lights Out Asia record, and adds in layers of strings and keyboards. There is one point that is gorgeous -- the guitars are whirring so fast they create a faint ambient blur and Dunford adds in a tinkling keyboard bit. Very nice. The general Tortoise-ness carries on in our fourth track, Lose You, which features our second vocalist. I think. It is another female voice, but she sounds a little higher pitched and more human as opposed to that Alison Shaw little girl/pixie squeal. Under this, there are some spacey electro sounds, a deep bass beat, and loud strings. This song gets loud and fun, like Tortoise remixed by late era Underworld.
Dunford gives us an intermission next, the two and a half minute L.A.G., which is just him on piano. One hand tinkles lightly at the higher end while the other keeps a thunking beat. This is decent, but Dunford is no Keith Jarrett.
The next two songs are, to be honest, kind of generic for what Dunford is doing. Prize seems to bring in a different make voice, one that i think it better suited to his style. The song, though, is a bland mélange of subtle beats and keyboard washes. Trip-hop by the numbers. What Is To Be Done is practically the same song. The male voice is clearer on Failed, and Dunford pairs it with lush M83 keys and a fast beat. A welcome break from the trip hop of the previous two songs.
Roadkill starts with whirring guitar and piano. This is a really pretty song, with layers of strings and a higher pitched male voice singing delicately. The vocalist is higher pitched than the other male singers (or is it the same guy in falsetto? It doesn't sound like it... damn this lack of liner notes!) and sings with a lot of natural tremolo. At times, he is almost subsumed by the deep layers of strings, which is a nice effect.
On Righteous Path there is a different male voice, and it sounds like John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants trying to sing soul music. That is not actually as awful as you would think, but it is kind of a whiny voice. There is a deep bass riff and some strings here as well. Basically it is Roadkill part two and with a different vice, but then about half way through the keyboards swell up to overtake the strings, the beat speeds up, and the song becomes an electro dance tune a la The Faint. It's a weird transition, but i kind of like it. The Faint-ish dark electro vibe carries over in Honey Trap. A different male voice again, i think, this one in the mid range, a little deeper than the previous vocalist. It gets rather loud, with deeply throbbing keys over layers of piano-like tinkling. This works pretty well.
But the female voice is back on If I Did which is the album closer. Here, she is echoed all to hell and back, fuzzed out and layered over a piano. Eventually, a tinkling song sample comes in, like a sample from a Christmas carol -- a xylophone tinkling and almost bell-like chiming. This is a sort of weird fusion of Lamb and Dead Can Dance, but, again, Dunford somehow makes it work.
Now that is the last song on the album, but the press download came with a "Bonus Track". In the era of digital music, i am not sure what the term "bonus track" means, but whatever. The song is called Hymn For Moya / If There Is A Light and is mostly piano, faint beats, and a vocal sample buried deeply, all echoed and faint. Eventually he layers in some synth chorus, making it even moodier. This song works better as an album closer than If I Did in the sense that it is an ambient fade out, the natural counterpoint to the Intro.
Overall, i have to say that i enjoy most of this record. It gets a little dull in the middle, and i do wish for some kind of liner notes to explain what the heck was happening with the vocals. However, if you like electro pop, then this is a pretty fine choice.
Released under the moniker of [ AL_X ], yet an another superbly done electroscape album. Something I won’t miss at any cost. Check it out lads. TOTALLY WORTHY.
Sea of Tranquility
AL_X is multi instrumentalist Alex Dunford, from the city of Liverpool England, hometown to many a famous artist. The music AL_X makes on his selftitled debut album can be categorized under Electronic music, influenced by famous electronc bands as we have like Sigur Ros, Depeche Mode and the like.
The music is a combined effort of great synth tones with nasty twists & turns as we also hear drum machines, music loops etc. All the music is composed, produced and all instrumentation played by AleX Dunford.
A bundle of nicely composed soundscapes is brought to the listener and I must say it is really really entertaining to listen to this music. It has an enlightning feel to it, and truly is able to cheer you up when you are having trouble enjoying yourself.
A Nasty Suprise
Fluttery Records is a most appropriate label for one-man-band AL_X, Alex Dunford. On February 10, the writer, producer and all-around instrumentalist from Liverpool released his first LP, and it is certainly fluttery. The self-titled album has a unique ambiance that flutters through your head, droops your eyelids lower, and floats you almost to serenity.
On the surface, “AL_X” is an experimental electronic album; Dunford uses plenty of synthesized sounds and drum machines along with strings and a piano. The tracks vary from heavily industrial, tech tunes to overproduced sonatas.
The tracks that sick to either of those extremes, though worth listening too, are not the strength of “AL_X.” The beauty of the album comes from slowly meshing the harmonies of digitalism with orchestral strings and piano. This is most apparent in the first four tracks.
The song “Intro” would fit seamlessly to the soundtrack of a psychologically thrilling movie – just at the final plot twist. It rises in intensity as the wandering ambiance builds up with more and more layers of repetition.
The third track, “Bloom,” is for the movie’s happy ending. It is the loveliest track we’ve heard this year, and is the highlight of “AL_X.” It is led in by a new wave hum akin to the sounds of M83. It rises and falls throughout the track, much like the whir of Sigur Ros’s “Takk.”
Once Dunford starts adding to the groundwork of “Bloom,” it results in a digital sonata. Bells chime in, piano chords strike, and orchestral strings shout. Dunford scratches a beat around the harmonies making a song you can both groove and cry to at the same time.
The closing track, “Hymn for Moya / If There is a Light,” is as weak a closer as there is. There is a haunting hymn with piano atop that doesn’t go anywhere. It is more of a rambling song that could have been condensed and used as a dividing track on the album.
But that’s what “L.A.G.,” a two-minute piano solo, already does; in the fifth slot, it divides the memorable songs from the forgettable songs.
The latter half of “AL_X” does have two bright spots. The glitch-tune “What is to be Done” and the humbler “Roadkill” are enjoyable.