Alex B: Moments

Alex B
Elm & Oak

The name “Alex B” suggests something altogether more 2004 than what we have here with Moments. I seem to recall a Euro House/Happy Hardcore DJ called Alex K who would gleefully speed up vocal samples and offend the ears of dance music fans with his obnoxious trance beats and typically abrasive syncopated ‘donk’ bass lines. Alex B should in fact use his full alias of “Alex Beats”. It still doesn’t do his music any justice, but every track here starts with a beat and works outwards, to brilliant effect.

In reality, Alex B takes electronica, trip-hop, hip-hop, and electro-hop and throws all these sounds into a lo-fi mixing pot, pouring out the portions in small two-minute chunks over the course of his 45-minute debut. His influences are sometimes clear — you can hear Boards of Canada all over “Nothing Is Always Something” and “Impressions”, and there’s more than just something of Daft Punk about single “You and I Both Know” — but sometimes the genre changes are so clever and come so often that you often haven’t got time to analyse or do anything other than just damn well let yourself go.

The jittery hip-hop beats that litter the album are juxtaposed neatly with tasteful electronics, sometimes harsh, sometimes soothing. But despite the spacious, leisurely pace that Moments often takes, Alex doesn’t seem keen to stay in the same place to long. Opener “At Channel One” may be the second longest track on the album, and one of only four out of 17 that break three minutes, but it starts off with a woozy Geogaddi landscape with a Massive Attack beat before veering off into subtle dub and electro territory. The funky trip-hop rap in “Kick Drones” doesn’t even break a minute before “Talk it Out” brings us into an ambient Air-esque place with a stuttering snare and busy synth programming. The house beat that kicks in for about five seconds towards the end of the latter showcases a sense of humour that would rarely be found on a modern electronica album.

Generally, the interlude length of all the tracks keeps things exciting and compelling for the length of the 45 minutes, but the five-minute “Getting to Know You” is nothing short of a masterpiece. Fluttering sirens and a drowsy lounge shuffle carry a gorgeous, soulful vocal melody that repeats itself leisurely. When the track starts, you certainly do not want it to cut off at two minutes, so it is a delight when it is left to breathe and expand.

However, the key to the album’s brilliance is given away in its title. Out of context, Moments could be the title of any slapdash album that wanted to seem deep and meaningful, but in the case of Alex B’s debut, he is offering just that: moments; small nuggets of surreal beauty one after the other. One gets the feeling, however, that 45 minutes does not do Alex justice, and the mind boggles as to what he could achieve in a longer runtime.

Now if only he could think of a better alias.

RATING 8 / 10