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Alexalone: Lost in ALEXALONEWORLD





Alexalone: Lost in ALEXALONEWORLD

Alex Peterson is a guitarist, songwriter, graphic designer, and bandleader from Austin, and although alexalone was once their solo moniker (the name is a reference to the Japanese Zeuhl project RUINS-alone), alexalone is now a fleshed out five-piece band made up of some of Austin’s best musicians. Peterson is a true rocker, a professional as committed to shredding as they are to gigging and touring, and even though they have been a consistent fixture of the local indie rock and shoegaze scene for the past seven years, they haven’t always been at the forefront. alexalone is Peterson’s longest running project, and although it is a project which has undergone many iterations, their projects and performances have only become more ambitious and nuanced as the years have gone by.

ALEXALONEWORLD (which is the group’s first release on Polyvinyl Records) is an album that feels like the culmination of years of hard work, but perhaps more importantly, it feels like the beginning of a new era for the band. “Electric Sickness” kicks off the record with a meditative pulse: several layers of jangling guitars drone over a stoic bassline while Sam Jordan’s pocket drumming provides a steady motorik beat and the synths of Mari Rubio (aka more eaze) float delicately high in the mix. Peterson’s vocals are confident yet sensitive, and their tight harmonies with Hannah Read (aka Lomelda) instantly foster a sense of melancholy comfort. But as soon as the listener becomes settled into the song’s atmospheric warmth, it’s chorus suddenly appears, bisecting the track with intense blast bleats and soaring sludge guitar leads.Then, the verse returns—mellow and calm, as if nothing had happened at all. The magic of alexalone’s music reveals itself in disciplined shifts such as this:moments of juxtaposition which heighten the tension while simultaneously offering release. 

Transitions play an important role in all of alexalone’s music, and ALEXALONEWORLD’s seamless tracklist is no exception. The Boris-esque doom metal riff of the second track “Where in the World” towers above the swirling noise which precedes it, before resting into a dirge of spacey atmospherics that Peterson’s reverbed vocals glide on top of effortlessly. The track begins to build up energy at the end, only to be snuffed out by the cavernous sound of a piano’s strings being struck percussively. The shimmering intro of “Unpacking my Feelings” breaks down into a darker groove that’s reminiscent of Slint, ultimately reaching an aggressive and angular boiling point that seems to mirror itself in the violent and disjointed conclusion of the following track “Can’t Sleep”. Subtle electronics take the lead on the ethereal “Let it Go,” a song which acts as a melodic respite from the anguish of the preceding tracks. 

The lyrics on ALEXALONEWORLD are gloomy, but never defeatist. Throughout the albums there is a consistent tone of sorrowful confessionalism, but there is always an outlook of almost Tao-like struggle that’s present. This is perhaps best exemplified in the sprawling “Black Rainbow,” a 7-minute track whose spoken word sections carry the intimacy of a well guarded diary entry. The act of hearing these fearlessly honest lyrics occasionally verges on embarrassing, but their undeniable self-assuredness ventures beyond this to create a sense of intimacy rarely found in contemporary indie rock, a genre that’s often overwhelmed with surface-level sincerity. 

Lush with charisma, slowcore ballad “Ruins” is ALEXALONEWORLD’s standout track. The vocal melodies (again complemented by Read) are melancholy and impassioned to the point of possessing an almost goth-like confidence. I personally believe that Alex Peterson is the most inspired guitarist in Austin, and it is telling of their restraint that there is only one proper guitar solo to be found on ALEXALONEWORLD. This solo, reminiscent of Adrian Belew, Michio Kurihara, and Oren Ambarchi, rides out the conclusion of “Ruins”, and acts as a shamelessly epic climax for the album, transcending the carefully-cultivated depressive atmosphere without regressing into naivete.

The final track is the instrumental “Eavesdropper,” which serves as an epilogue for the record and fully leans into alexalone’s more minimalistic tendencies- a monotone bassline drones menacingly as Peterson’s theremin-like guitar feedback swoops in and out of dominance. In lieu of a linear chord progression, the track structures itself around stark volume dynamics which inevitably plow forward into a dense cacophony, then into silence- it is an expression of alienation which feels something like being on the verge of a panic attack in public. In the midst of a seemingly endless global pandemic which is disproportionately affecting Americans, the images of social anxiety and dread evoked by this album speak to an increasingly claustrophobic reality. These thematic undertones, along with it’s aesthetic contemporariness, are what makes ALEXALONEWORLD a truly accomplished record and alexalone’s best album — though plenty more, I hope, is yet to come.

alexalone can be seen live with Soccer Mommy on Friday, October 22nd at Emo’s.

Published: October 22, 2021 |

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