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Alex Delivery - Star Destroyer

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Artist: Alex Delivery

Album: Star Destroyer

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: May. 1, 2007

I've been curious about Alex Delivery ever since they opened the Jagjaguwar showcase at CMJ last fall. That night ,the five of them dressed up in crazy costumes for Halloween, hammering, droning and electro-knob-twisting away at their repetitive grooves. Their fierce Teutonic aura was undermined only slightly by the fact that one of them, Marika Kandelaki evidently, was disguised as a tin wood-woman (in silver face paint and a short metallic skirt). Something must have been proved that night, because now six months later, they're a Jagjaguwar band whose first album, the six-cut Star Destroyer fits glove-like into that label's folk-cum-krautrock vibe.

Opening cut "Komad" is just over 10 minutes long. It contains two musical ideas, layered into one another in a splintery sort of fusion with lots of sharp edges sticking out. The track starts like a distorted indie rock song, except that the vocals ooze along sub-surface and secondary. They give precedence to other sounds, primarily wet waves of keyboard distortions and pounding drums. Still, there is a vocal for the first three and a half minutes, which makes the cut feel like more like a pop song than much of the album. It fades out rather abruptly, giving way to phase two of "Komad,” all mechanized clank-rhythms and burbling plastic keyboard lines and strobe-lit dance vibes. In fact, the whole middle third of the song has the slippery, shimmery, 1970s futurism of Faust's "Krautrock," poised somewhere between sensuality and intellectual rigor. And then, just as suddenly as it appeared, the groove is gone, and we're back to relatively unadorned, fragile indie-pop song, with lyrics about sun and shadows.

You could view "Komad" as a sort of summary, a statement of purpose, because all the cuts that follow it partake, to one degree or another, of its polarities: pop and mechanistic groove. "Rainbow," clocking in at three minutes, is perhaps the prettiest, most accessible of the disc's pop-leaning songs, though "Vesna" dripping with piano flourishes and swirled over with distortion, comes in a close, much stranger second. The longer songs all settle, inevitably, into a repetitive, numb-but-danceable rhythms. "Sheath-Wet" is maybe the best of these, built of vibrating layers of percussion, translucent keyboards and delicate harmonies. It's dense with ideas but also full of air and space, allowing the light to shine, somehow, though its impacted cadences.

I'm not sure whether it's a philosophical thing or just the limits of Alex Delivery's recording equipment, but there's an indistinctness around these songs that makes them hard to grab onto. You're never really sure which sounds take precedence and which ought to be treated as background, and it's easy to get lost in the longer cuts. None of them make any sort of linear progression from A to B – they simply A on and on until someone in the band gets bored, and then it's over to B. A sense of meandering fuzzy-headed-ness lurks in the corners of even the most appealing cuts. Yet there's a relentless drive towards discovery that seem to fill this album, warts and all, with a limitless sense of possibility. It's an interesting beginning rather than a definitive statement, but very promising nonetheless.

By Jennifer Kelly

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