- Song For Alpha, with its contemplative moods and nods to ambient greats, recalls another recent album by a not-exactly-dance producer. Huerco S.'s fuzzy LP as Pendant seemed to chart his ongoing retreat from the club space. Daniel Avery is a different kind of artist—his debut album, 2013's Drone Logic, was a straight-up dance record of the sort that Huerco S. has never made. But its follow-up, influenced by the likes of Brian Eno, William Basinski and Warp's Artificial Intelligence series, is also about a kind of escape.
"Psychedelic music" is what Avery calls the stuff he favours after years as a full-time DJ. It's "music in which you can get truly lost," for "moments where you close your eyes and everything else just seems irrelevant." Rather than rejecting club culture, though, this sound is a means of romanticising it. Bleary and euphoric, Song For Alpha suggests that Avery still loves his "transient life spent between nightclubs, flights, the passenger seats of cars and hotel rooms"—though maybe in a different way than when he started.
"Psychedelic" is a handy catch-all: it refers to the hypnotic techno Avery DJs with as well as its ambient opposite. The album drifts fitfully between the two, as if we're tracking the producer across a sleep-deprived multi-gig weekend. We open with an early ride to the airport: "First Light," 100 seconds of glimmering ambient, and then "Stereo L," a Plastikman 303 ballad which unfurls like a majestic dawn. Avery sneaks in a techno-like pulse on "Projector," but it's only a reverbed premonition of the club. There's another ambient interlude before we finally land on the dance floor with "Sensation," whose pads swoop past like deafening jet engines.
The cycle repeats across the album. Short ambient tracks ("Days From Now" and the very Basinski-like "Embers") shade into gorgeous '90s-style downtempo ("Citizen / Nowhere"), and the techno quotient gradually rises. With the exception of the raging "Diminuendo," the dance floor tracks are measured and ultra deep. There's a fine line between hypnotism and po-faced formula, and Avery sometimes crosses it in his DJing. These tracks are rescued by gorgeous chords and melodies, which give otherwise grey arrangements rich shades of melancholy and optimism. Avery had a knack for a hook back in the days of Drone Logic, too. His attitude to the dance floor might have changed, but the important stuff hasn't.
01. First Light
02. Stereo L
04. TBW 17
06. Citizen / Nowhere
09. Days From Now
11. Slow Fade
14. Quick Eternity