The slow and steady build of Alias’ hip-hop rhythms coupled with the dark echoed voice of Tarsier on their debut album Brookland and Oaklyn is complex collaboration, at times likened to a stalagmite ever reaching for the ceiling of the cavernous reverbs of the mind, to the lighter, vibrant tempo of insect footprints on guitar strings. This multi-tiered spaceport of melody delivers listeners to an undefined boundary of thinking and feeling, mixed and stirred and served chilled.
Before getting into the meat of the album, here’s a little background. Alias, a.k.a. Brendan Whitney, resides in Oakland, CA where he’s been producing music under his alias, Alias, and working with others, notably Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie/Postal Service, John Vanderslice, and The Notwist. His first instrumental LP, Muted, is where Tarsier, Rona Rapadas, comes in. Half of the Brooklyn based Healamonster & Tarsier, Rona picked up a copy of Muted. Inspired from her awe, she wrote lyrics for the vocal-less Muted, and eventually corresponded with Alias. Alias was similarly taken aback by Healamonster & Tarsier’s Heart of the Blue Whale EP. Sporadically en communiqué, they eventually convinced each other to work together while a nation of space stood between them. Thus, Brookland and Oaklyn.
Brookland and Oaklyn opens with the light-hearted “Cub,” establishing a great foothold for both lyrics and composition. The lyrics are highly poetic, having a distinct voice that tends to differ from each song to the next, and in this specific song, the simple joys of life are described in a portrait of a child’s sight. The light-footed harmony of vocals and rhythm are both of a musical sense and an atmospheric sense, matching the mood with the music. “Last” departs from the whimsy of “Cub” and travels to a slightly darker place, featuring harder compositional climaxes and the solo reverberation of Tarsier’s voice gives the track an eerie feel, amplified by the piano accompaniment. “Dr. C” seems to be a happy medium between the two tracks, while not having the shady darkness of the previous two tracks, still has a certain sense of desperation despite the deftly swift guitar.
Brookland and Oaklyn is an album that most certainly has a voice of its own, but doesn’t feel the need to rigidly stay within the edges of that voice. It has room to venture out for the sake of the music, keeping it universal and never artificial.