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My Favorite Band (ALPHA) Pt. 1

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

In 2001 I was introduced to the trip-hop band Alpha by a friend. I have adored this band for 20 years now! As many of you know, I collaborated on the upcoming ALPHA album on two tracks. You can order it here. Read more below about my favorite tracks from many of the their albums.

I am not sure I can identify a single favorite from the first Alpha album Come From Heaven (1997). I purchased my copy of this album while studying in Dresden, Germany in the summer of 2002. I have such fond memories of listening to this CD on my portable CD player/Disc-man (OLD RIGHT!) as I rode the Strassenbahn, or walked around town. One particularly vivid memory was listening to this album after a late night party (really really late night - 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. I had likely enjoyed numerous German beers.) I had just walked two friends back to their apartment and was about to head home, hoping to make it home before the sunrise. I popped in my headphones and enjoyed the view of one of Europe's most beautiful city, the Elbe river, and a light misting rain that provided additional atmosphere. This album perfectly encapsulates that memory.

The music video for the following song is a perfect visual representation of the aural soundscape created by Alpha. It evokes a dark restaurant or lounge after hours. It makes me long to be back in Dresden, sitting in a Kneipe in the Neustadt, late at night. I love the combination of the vibraphone, strings, and electronic elements in this song. Plus Martin Barnard's vocals are like BUTTER! If you like this song - go buy one of their albums on Bandcamp, Itunes, or Amazon. It is imperative to support artists by purchasing their music rather than simply streaming.

Other favorite songs from the album include Somewhere Not Here, My Things, and Rain.

The Impossible Thrill

Whether in popular music or classical/art music I have always loved music which presented unique colors, combinations of sounds, and which creates evocative and atmospheric moods. Alpha has proved album after album to continue to impress me with those timbres and moods. Their music is lush, soulful, evocative, and cinematic. Their music emerged from the Trip-Hop scene in Bristol, England with other bands including Massive Attack and Portishead in the mid 1990s. Trip-hop, sometimes also called downtempo is a genre which combines electronica with elements of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, and house music.

The first album I owned was their 2001 release The Impossible Thrill. What a great title! Again, it is difficult for me to isolate a single song from this album that is a favorite. The opening track Still is moody and trippy with excellent vocals by Helen White. The third track Dim, with vocals by Martin Barnard is also excellent. But I have chosen to share the second track from the album titled Eon (vocals by Wendy Stubbs). The string writing is lush, the harmonies inventive, the electronic elements provide excellent texture and counterpoint to the bass and the string writing. The overall texture is dense. Corin's drum tracks are fantastic! This song reminds me of my years in Tallahassee, FL. In particular it conjures the dark street I lived on, the rickety old house I lived in, the Spanish moss hanging from the tree in the front yard, the oppressive humidity, and the debaucherous parties that I hosted. My years in Tallahassee sound like this song - heavy, dark, moody.

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Tim Robinson-Ayer
Tim Robinson-Ayer
Jul 11, 2021

"Fort" is my favorite track form "The Impossible Thrill." Listening to it the first time triggered a vivid memory of my childhood, going to movies at the Plaza Theater will my late brother, sitting there kids, by ourselves (I would have been 4-5 years old and he 8-9) waiting for the huge red curtain to part and the movie to start.

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