Alam No Hris came to life in 2010 when Jonah Furman, Aaron Ratof, and Luke Pyeson—known collectively as Krill—bundled into their basement and spent the next two years concocting a series of gorgeously erratic art-rock tunes. With all its glitchy recording quality, instrumental malfunctions, and warbling, breathy vocals, it’s just as piercingly authentic today as it was back when it was released in 2012.
The moment Furman’s vocals kick in during the opening seconds of track one, “Dumbass In a Pair of Shorts,” we know exactly what sort of record this is going to be: unpolished, rough around the edges, and blisteringly honest, with waves of ragged emotion coursing through each and every line. Furman, is not, objectively (if such a word is ever really appropriate when discussing art) that good of a singer. But Alam No Hris wouldn’t be half as immersive an experience if he was. The vocals are wobbly, strained and labored, though it’s less as if Furman is forcing himself to get anything out and more like he’s struggling under the enormity of the effort required to keep all of himself in. Furman’s vocal performance feels like the trembling release of a pressure valve; you can either release it across the course of a 40-minute album in a shaky stream of manic yelps and angst-ridden growls, or, if you dare, you can rip it off quickly—in other words, an explosion.
In the period from 2010 to 12, when the album was being written and recorded, a burst of authenticity was a necessary prescription for guitar-driven indie-rock. This was an era of music history characterized by “landfill indie,” a distinctly uncharitable term given to the kinds of bands who kept springing up following the success of indie mainstays like The Artic Monkeys and The Fratellis until supply so radically outweighed demand that the seesaw was vertical and all you could hear for miles was endless reruns of “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon.
Which made an album like Alam No Hris one hell of a breath of fresh air. It’s brimming with an untamable individuality that was diametrically opposed to the tame, calculated appearance of mainstream indie at the time; “Piranha Girl,” for example, is a butterflies-in-the-stomach love song that describes a very specific, personal moment of affection (“Finding your hair on my baseball cap / When did you even wear my baseball cap?”, goes the hook) whose uniqueness makes it all the more relatable. “32 Teeth,” meanwhile, is a clattering cascade of sound; bright, piercing shards of guitar tumbling over the warm, jagged basslines that Furman – also the bassist—shoots into the mix. In all its cacophonous glory, it’s tangled and irregular in stream-of-consciousness fashion, yet sweetly melodic.
The same impulse that guides Krill through these incredible moments of ragged sincerity can also steer them into some inelegant mashing of sounds that will sometimes drag things down or trail off without adding much. But when you have an album where a lack of restraint is such a core driving force, to focus on this kind of thing seems to miss the point. Krill’s debut feels like less painstakingly constructed music, and more like a gut reaction, as reflexive as yanking your hand away from a hot stove. That is the source of its charm and beauty. Alam No Hris isn’t glamorous or sophisticated, but rather the sound of raw, exploratory joy, bottled.