2008 is shaping up to be the Year of the Alps, for me at least. I?ve spent a good chunk of time absorbing the low-fi garage goodness of Sic Alps last few releases, now here drops THE Alps latest and surely one of the best blissed-out instro records I?ve heard in a helluva long time.
A veritable Bay Area supergroup, The Alps membership consists of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (Tarentel), Alexis Georgopoulos (ARP, Tussle), and Scott Hewicker (Troll). Groups with this sort of pedigree are generally a shaky proposition; either working out too many ideas or leaving most half-baked, and leaving anyone other than diehard fans of their previous work out in the cold. But on ?III?, their first studio-based record, The Alps have crafted an album that draws from a broad sonic palette while retaining a shimmering warmth throughout that is both inviting and invigorating.
Parallels to the more synth-heavy factions of the Komische sound are undeniable, but what makes ?III? so special is that no matter how far The Alps push towards the outer stratosphere they always seem to have one foot firmly planted in the back parlor. So while sounds swoosh and swirl about, there is always a simple piano melody, a strummed acoustic guitar, or a delicate chime waiting close by. Take the opening track, ?A Manha Na Praia?, which is built around a simple repetitive guitar figure that gradually adds layer upon layer of chimes, processed guitars, zither, and some gnarled synth tones that crumbles the whole composition in on itself. Replaced with a skeletal piano melody, ?Cloud One? unfolds along similar lines, never crumbling, but reaching for some type of euphoric breaking point. When The Alps dabble in rhythm as on ?Hallucinations?, ?Trem Fanstasma?, and ?Labyrinths?, they come off sounding like a group performing abstract renditions of ?La Femme D?argent? from Air?s ?Moon Safari? album with their rubbery bass lines and laid back groove.
Balancing their impressionistic and expressionistic impulses, without sounding excessive or overbearing on either front, The Alps have created in ?III? an album that flows with grace and beauty and that towers above the endless parade of ?instrumental? records that I?ve nodded off to over the past few years. 9/10 -- David Perron (24 September, 2008)