Review Summary: A lackluster album from a talented producer.
Alias - Resurgam
In a year of stellar Shadow-inspired hip hop releases, it's not the record junkie sample wizard style that has impressed me most but the indie producer gone electronica album At War With Walls & Mazes
by Son Lux. Son Lux is effectively a singer-songwriter but the "songwriter" part of that equation is a mix of breakbeat, r&b, trip hop, indie pop, and even folk. His music works on two important levels; as a singer-songwriter has to do, he writes great, emotive narratives, but more importantly, his actual production transcends the genre he is writing within by embracing so many unexpected genres. Fittingly, Son Lux even remixes the song "Want" by the newly popular, European folk-influnced singer-songwriter Beirut.
Alias, real name Brendon Whitney, releasing Resurgam
on the indie hip hop label of the moment, Anticon, seems like the perfect storm of all the aforementioned artists. He can slip into the dense, thick trip hop of a Metaform but is also prone to the balladry of a Son Lux, with enough production gimmicks and indie cred to align himself with labelmates Why? (in fact Yoni Wolf guest appears on a track here). But despite this winning combination, Alias' Resurgam
falls short for a variety of reasons. First of all, this perfect storm is executed on a song-by-song basis, instead of a moment-by-moment basis. The acoustic guitars are not intertwined with the sampled drum breaks and the synthesized melodies. Instead there are songs that are more dependent on the Son Lux brand of trip hop followed by ones that are more like a DJ Shadow song. This alternation feels like a missed opportunity for Alias, who shows moments of talent in each department, but never quite pits the two against one another, which could have resulting in a hybridized style that is greater than the sum of its parts. The only track that gets whisper close to that blend is "Well Water Black," an indie song with a continuously developing breakbeat and a mix of rap and singing, which is also clearly the best track on the album
The problems don't stop there. Some of the songs just aren't that good, both styles included. "Weathering" is a pretty but shallow affair of indie pop. "M.G. Jack" is the sweet-and-sour sauce of the album, executing somewhat droning or brooding melodies with zany production. Resurgam
isn't all a big miss though. The aforementioned "Well Water Black" is amazing, and the slow-burning trip hop of "Autumnal Ego" and the break-heavy "Justamachine" absolutely slay. Alias has talent but not necessarily the taste to execute that talent properly for an entire album. He'll wedge all sorts of production oddities together, sometimes resulting in trash, sometimes in treasure. That, coupled with the fact that his synergy of indie, singer-songwriter, pop, and trip hop is never quite realized, renders Resurgam
a few steps below the 2008 hip hop releases that have already proven themselves to be superb.