Alexander – I Review

Regular readers of this here blog may well agree with Steely D‘s assessment of me as an overwriting bastard. He recently issued the following encouragement to me regarding one of my Rodeö blurbs: “You overwriting bastard, cut that beast down!!” And it’s true, dear reader, that my reviews rarely come in under 700 words and are among the longer ones published here.1 But every now and again, even I stumble across an album that I struggle to overwrite and, in this case, that is because a terrible mistake was made. I picked up I, the debut by Canadian-German duo Alexander after spotting it, alone and unattended in the promo sump, sporting a funeral doom tag. Only it didn’t say funeral doom, it said funeral drone, something I realized only after the No Takesie Backsie policy had kicked in.2 Sigh. So, what exactly is funeral drone?

Well, much as funeral doom is doom drawn out to epically slow and extreme proportions, so it would seem funeral drone is, well, drone given extra lashings of zombified lethargy and even more static and feedback. Perhaps this was inevitable given the day jobs of Alexander’s members, Kyle Alexander McDonald of Canadian doomsters Zaum and Jörg Alexander Schneider of German free jazz3 outfit Jealousy Mountain Duo. Split across only two tracks, I is accessible in much the same way that Sunn O))) is accessible but offers much less return on your investment. Warbling synths and electronic feedback reverberate around ugly, distended bass riffs and percussion drawn straight from a free jazz stable. McDonald is also credited with “voices” although, frankly, their use is sparing and their impact extremely limited.

It’s hard to really describe what Alexander do here. Normally, I expect drone to be repetitive and mesmerizing, bordering on the hypnotic but I lacks any structure or patterns–at least any that my tiny mind can wrap itself around. While the actual aural experience is closer to the likes of Sunn O)))’s Pyroclasts or Electric Wizard than it is to free jazz, it’s the latter that determines the structures (or lack thereof), which define Alexander. The seemingly random bursts of drums and percussion that issue forth in scattershot fashion around humming electronica and excruciatingly slow vibrations torn from a tortured bass give the listener very little to grab onto or follow, across I’s monolithically teased-out 34 minutes. While this does to a degree deliver the descent into madness promised by the promo notes, this is more a descent into maddening frustration with the record than what (I imagine) a true downward spiral feels like.

I was criticized beneath a recent review of another drone act for bemoaning the lack of payoff on that record. The commenter pointed out that the whole point of drone is the ambience, the mood. That’s fair. But for the life of me I cannot work out what mood Alexander is going for, nor even whether the chaotic stutterings and stumblings of I qualify as ambience. As the album restlessly yaws its way through the bass-driven, feedback laden ramblings of opening track “Astral Descent,” I wait on each listen for some theme or pattern to finally click with me but it never does. Second track “Runes” offers less variation and even less return in its dissonant tumult, despite being nearly 20 minutes long. I don’t really feel able to comment on the production values of I since to do so, I think I would need to understand the album, and I don’t.

If there was ever to be a record that I review here, which I felt I could make, this is it. That’s not a good thing. To my ears, this a collection of random samples and effects, set to sporadic free jazz percussion and occasional disembodied voices, pieced together slowly agonizingly slowly and with no manual. Lacking either the utter insanity of pure Merzbow or the ethereal craziness of the recent and incredible Boris, Merzbow collaboration, Alexander’s experimentation manages the difficult feat of both playing it too safe to truly shatter expectations, while at the same time taking too many free jazz leads to deliver any mesmerizing moods and ambience. If this is funeral drone, I don’t want it in my life.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Schneider Collaborations
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 9th, 2021

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Possibly due to rambling, semi-relevant intros like this one.
  2. Hahahahahaha. – Steel
  3. #shudder
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