Like the best musicians who work within the ambient genre, Alex Albrecht is in no hurry to get anywhere. His music is a lazy, almost desultory journey where the destination isn’t the point. It’s equal parts relaxing, calming, and laced with a tense buzz. Last year, he released Campfire Stories, which combined low-key field recordings with moody instrumental music. It was Albrecht’s debut solo album, as previous works were as part of the duo Albrecht La’Brooy (his collaboration with Sean La’Brooy). This time around, Albrecht is at it again, and with Resolve, he has thankfully not changed the formula much at all.
Resolve is Albrecht’s second solo album but his first on the Oakland-based label Constellation Tatsu. Lovers of Campfire Stories will be pleased to know that this is a fitting and comfortably recognizable sequel. Albrecht uses the field recordings primarily as a backdrop, but they make up a sizeable portion of the opening track, “Passage”. Mild outdoor atmospherics combine with the opening of doors, distant church bells, and the shuffling of feet, as if the listener is privy to a secret, if inconsequential recording. Soon, a mesmerizing piano and bass figure repeat over and over, while the background sounds continue. Much like Claire Rousay’s 2021 ambient masterpiece A Softer Focus, Albrecht manages to let the ambience and the music coexist peacefully as they complement each other beautifully.
Things get even more interesting with “Coney”, as the mysterious percussive effects lead into stark and ethereal synth figures and a field recording of what sounds like two people engaged in an intense, accented conversation emerges. The sound is both foreboding and thrilling, like surveillance footage set to a tense film score. Resolve is “designed to be a gapless, single listening record”, according to its Bandcamp page, and “explores dreams, the unconscious, and the way we perceive and recall memories (and) experiences”. In this sense, the album works tremendously well. There’s a dreamlike quality, not only to the music but also in the addition of the well-chosen field recordings.
Despite the record essentially being described as one piece of music, the focus often shifts from traditional music to atmospherics from song to song. On “Village Square”, the field recordings threaten to overpower the music, as urban white noise rises and falls over the lightly percussive music bed. But the title track seems more focused on the somewhat “normal-sounding” ambient folk of the acoustic guitar picking and piano, creating one of the album’s more organic moments.
There is a definite cohesion to the album, but the variety – particularly in the field recordings – gives off something of an ambient globe-trotting vibe. Alex Albrecht isn’t reinventing the wheel – or even his own creative impulses – on Resolve, but that’s perfectly fine. This is an album filled with both soothing instrumental arrangements and an odd sense of danger and mystery.