I feel Jeffrey Alexander’s music has only tangentially graced our shores…we heard one compilation by The Iditarod, and have a little passing familiarity with Black Forest / Black Sea, but everyone says that Dire Wolves from San Francisco are really the thing to investigate. Alexander is also a mover-and-shaker for doing useful things like organising festivals and gigs and running the labels Secret Eye Records and Pome Pome Tones. He’s here today with Meditations For Beowulf (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR470), which turns out to be a surprisingly varied, compelling, and gently trippy record of tunes, instrumentals and songs. A lot to savour in his very natural approach to picking up instruments and making noises in the recording studio, such that you soon forget this is a solo album – I mean it sparkles with life, warmth, and ideas, and is not mired in introspective threads or cobwebs.
Fave piece is probably the long track ‘Iridescent Clouds’, which might use keyboards and guitars or other stellar means to create a beautifully de-centred and muzzy drone-field of highly cosmic dimensions. Especially like the way this one sidesteps, or just plain avoids, anything resembling the hint of a melody. Elsewhere ‘Tranquility 1’ has the compelling mood of a 1970s Eno LP track, but he can’t help lapsing into picking out a sketchy tune on one of the many instruments that swirl in this pot of fudge. ‘New Magic’ seems best to fit the theme of Beowulf (if indeed one was intended) as it resembles krumhorns from a lost medieval past come to visit today’s uncertain climes, with a message we can’t begin to comprehend. The two actual songs, ‘Beowulf’s Trip’ and ‘Sunsplash Your Mind’ are the least convincing moments for me somehow, in spite of their well-crafted Red Krayola vibe; the singing voice just a shade too weak, the tunes under-nourished. Even so, this is a real charmer. From 27 June 2019.