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White Noise: AL-90 - Code-915913

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

AL-90 - Code-915913

Label: Fuselab

An impressive LP that seemed to slip under most radars is the sophomore release of AL-90, based in Russia’s ­­Murmansk, which sits well inside the Arctic Circle. On first listen it takes a similar approach to house that How To Dress Well first did to RnB, like listening through a wall; muffled and fragmentary, its emotions and clarity blurred. Unlike a lot of lofi purveyors who drag their sounds into the dirt, laying distortion and tape hiss on thick, AL-90’s music is still bright and accessible, its vocals and melodies on the poppier end of the house spectrum, but the whole thing feels muted, like the memory of song.

It’s a pretty distinctive idea, to eschew the clarity and immediacy of big-room club tracks without actually changing their basic elements, and it does leave one wondering a little what AL-90 would make if he went a little easier on the smudgy effects. But when the sound works it’s great; Zavualirovanniy Signal wears a sleek, simple melodic hook and a vocal only recognisable as an expression of loss, while Experienced Girl is well structured, wielding a clearer RnB sample which still sounds half-drowned, suffusing the track with melancholy.

As an LP, Code-915913 does see AL-90 repeating the same technique time and again, and at some points it doesn’t work as well as others, such as the garish circus quality to the traditional strings which wheel over the central motif of Melancholia Staroy Pornozvezdy. Yet we do get some gratifying experimentation, such as the old-fashioned vocal line of Radicalnye Tanzi which gels with the stripped synthwork, the intriguing Pandora 9.0 which seems to primarily sample violins tuning up, or the soulful shot of blues on 913. AL-90 has produced a very intriguing album, and while he still has some refining to do in order to make the most of his potential (this LP probably could have been a very fine EP rather than a quite good album), he’s definitely one to watch.


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