Elements like dream-pop, shoegazer, ambient, trance, and electronica all pervade Alcian Blue’s latest independent self-titled release. The sonic films of synth and guitars have touchstones of icons like Joy Division, The Cure, New Order, Slowdive, and Sisters of Mercy. But Alcian Blue isn’t yesteryear’s music. There are clusters of “nü-gazer” artists like Hundred Year Storm, The States, The Gray Escape, and the UK’s Goldfrapp and Dubrovnik, who along with Alcian Blue are making mammoth walls of synth and guitars exciting again.
The tranquilizing electro-rock panes on the opening track “Horizons” build up with progressive frames along the husky, sepulchral vocals, which move through the synth funnels and hazy screens of sound. Like a video director who has discovered the excitement of filming an ocean wave in progress close up, Alcian Blue has found excitement in making music that represents the motions of that ocean wave. The music is emotional on an ethereal plane but still has universal meaning. Who wouldn’t enjoy the excitement of riding an ocean wave? Like Alcian Blue’s music, there is something elating about it that affects everyone.
Alcian Blue initially had a drummer, Clark Stacey, in 2001 when they formed, but according to frontman Jake Reid, he departed from the band in 2005 when he joined the Air Force. The band chose not to replace their drummer whom they knew since high school, but rather filled in the drum parts with scripted programs. The downside to the methodical beats is that the music has its limitations. After a few tracks into the album, the series blend into each other and the songs have a sameness quality. The thruways of blissfulness, the sustained keyboard tones, the luxuriating wavelengths, and the trance-like spheres and strobes are recurrent.
Even with recurring streams of similar instrumentation, the songs are still intriguing and seduce the listener into their channels. The eerie, weighty tones on “You Just Disappear” have a western country lamina. The violins woven into “Night Sky” build a classical continuum while the imaginary turns on “Frozen Sleep” instill a soft glaze over the graceful flow of instrumentation. The production work is bulky with tones that wash over the rhythmic movements, like on “Turn Away.” The tambourine jingles on “See You Shine” course through the wavelengths of keyboard processions. The album concludes with “Terminal Escape” filled with dance/club beats, rinses of keyboard sprays, and Germanic-tinted vocals, which give the song a Gothic impression.
Alcian Blue has created an album that makes “nü-gazer” a viable music form to be reckoned with today. Alcian Blue doesn’t have many predecessors from their region but does share domains with the electronica bands from the UK and around the world, finding excitement in the motions of trance-like waves.
Sisters of Mercy – Floodland
Hundred Year Storm – Hello From The Children of Planet Earth
Goldfrapp – Supernature