Alpine showcases their languid vibey feel in the first two tracks of this EP wonderfully. Lovers 1 and Lovers 2 blend seamlessly into one another and the combined voices of Phoebe Baker and Lou James create a dream-like world where listeners are free to float down a rainbow river and wave to the unicorns munching lazily at the water’s edge. The drum play on these tracks, especially the continuous ripple of the symbols on Lovers 1, feels like a fat rain drops landing on a placid lake, an aqua shiver that excites the soul.
However, the tracks grow increasingly more complex as the EP progresses, and the ephemeral nature of the vocals are sacrificed when the focus is placed on the layers of disco beats, drum synthesizers, and all other motifs synth-pop. The overall effect is a seemingly hodge-podge final product, a musical soup made of muddled themes, garnished with glitter. There are so many things happening at once mechanically on so many of these tracks that it’s difficult to attach your ear to any one element, any one motif, as so many of them are employed at once. Even the voices, which were lulling and emotionally evocative at first, become repetitive and eventually invoke paranoia.
The emotional response of the listener is not the only thing affected by the pared down lyrics, the overall narrative of the album suffers as it is difficult to teach a lesson using a Socratic method when the conversation never progresses, and at the end of the day, the point of creating complexity through the synth layers feels misguided or even completely lost.
Having said that, there is a commonly agreed upon notion that a person needs to hear something seven times in order for them to remember it. Maybe that was Alpine’s plan all along. If that is the case, there is something to be said about their ability to choose two statements per track to express who they are as individuals. Who needs a biography when you can boil down who you are into two concise statements? Take the track Gasoline, saying over and over again, ‘I wish it wasn’t just the night time,’ after ‘There’s gasoline in my heart.’ Hard to debate the point when there is so little to the argument.
At first glance this album sorely lacks depth, but I found myself pondering the possibility that this could be the intended design, and that there was something to choosing simplicity of text over long-winded diatribes about the nature of good and evil, or for that matter the storytelling structure that folk employs. ‘A is for Alpine’ is an acid trip narrated by fairy voices on a loop; the instrumental elements deliver a journey into the ether, and the colloquial lyrical structure offers a simple perspective, an ethos declared via mantras. This debut album merits a listen, even if it is only to see what you can remember after listening to it.