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Four Tet - Live at Alexandra Palace London, 8th and 9th May 2019 Music Album Reviews

Kieran Hebden’s new live album reminds us that he is a stellar performer, not just a producer.
The British producer Kieran Hebden has one of the most distinctive signatures in electronic music. First, a gravelly drum machine; then, some jewel-toned synth pads; and, finally, a strip of harp or chimes or wordless cooing, unspooling like wrinkled ribbon.

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ALASKALASKA - The Dots Music Album Reviews


The English six-piece’s debut is a high-wire act combining jazz fusion, disco rhythms, and high-gloss art rock.

The English six-piece ALASKALASKA have spent the last two years in the same South London melting pot as jazz revivalists Sons of Kemet, post punks Shame, and Afropop modernist Rina Mushonga. A wonderful cross-contamination must have occurred, because their debut LP The Dots is evidence that they have soaked up their surroundings: Combining jazz fusion, disco rhythms, and high-gloss art rock, The Dots is an ambitious first album boasting attention to detail and a natural gift for pop melody.

What strikes you initially about the songs are their radiant, body-moving grooves—early single “Meateater” being the most immediate example. A dizzying smash-up of polished synth pop, canned percussion, and blurting saxophone, it’s a track that seems allergic to genre and untethered by era. Bandleader Lucinda Duarte-Holman’s crisp voice cuts through the tangle of keys and woodwinds like an Exacto blade dividing tinsel. Over time, the record’s precise composition and production details start to peek out. Opening suite of songs “The Dots,” “Bees,” and “Moon,” are ripe with sonic curios: Whether it’s a buried baritone harmony, a gooey bass riff that Thundercat would co-sign, or a skronking sax phrase that flaps overhead like a passing seagull, each element feels simultaneously effortless and deliberate.

This might be a result of ALASKALASKA’s dual areas of expertise: Duarte-Holman met multi-instrumentalist Fraser Rieley and guitarist Calum Duncan during a pop music course at Goldsmiths University, while the remaining members are heavily enmeshed in the jazz scene. It would be easy for one camp to overpower the other’s native musical tongue, but what emerges instead is a whole new dialect of their own design.

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While The Dots is awash in dimensional, multicolored compositions, ALASKALASKA are able to pare things back when necessary. “Sweat” is a slow-burning sex hymn draped over a frame of plucked strings, whining drones, and what sounds like the faint creaking of bedsprings. Duarte-Holman is hushed here, letting the words slip out of her mouth; “Sweat baby,” she sings. “Salt never tasted so good.” The Dots is packed with quick sketches of daily life like this, each rendering familiar dilemmas—sexism, resentment, PMS—without beating you over the head with the subject matter. Maybe that is the trick to ALASKALASKA’s music: They push everything right to the brink and then pull back at precisely the right moment

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