Al-pha-x :: Gravity
The first thing that strikes with Gravity is its book-like packaging: one must go through four flaps which opened up, down, left, and right, (representing compass points) before you got to the actual CD. The second thing I noticed was the shiny little sticker on the cover with a crescent and two stars that said, "Bar De Lune, A Genuine Product." Fortunately, it only went uphill from that. It has come to my knowledge that besides the *.Beats series DJ'd by one of your favorite Indian gods, Bar De Lune also houses solo artists, among them Christophe Goze, Radar (which is 1/2 Goze), and Al-Pha-X, who, admittedly, I had never heard of before.
So what is Al-pha-X?
"Al-pha is the beginning of everything in life and in thought. It represents the starting of a journey, in this instance, into a body of music. X is the unknown, the mystery. As with all that is undiscovered and is left to the imagination it's the X-factor that keeps us intrigued and lets us all know there are some things in life bigger than us-." (www.al-pha-x.com).
This being said, educated musician-composer Decan Flynn and his band of talented instru-technicians bring to us Gravity, a multicultural album spanning much of the globe, keeping the track listing ever fresh. Flynn does not overload us with heavy ethnic instrumentation to manifest his four points on the compass. In fact, he uses very little. Rather, it is the vocals - language and style - and how the instruments are played that have a primary and powerful role in his tunes. Flynn keeps his music relatively simple, technically, yet the album is complex in its contents and entirety.
"First Transmission" starts us off with the staccato of the Middle Eastern darbouka from which emerges north Indian vocals and a violin elegantly alternating, overlapping, and complementing each other until the end with the encouraging support of the darbouka spicing things up between breathers. Taking you retro is "Hojar," putting you dead in the center of a 1970s police investigation: baby blue-suited gangsters, chains out, being followed by one slick detective, sunglasses on, the scene complete with cigs, drugs, and a general ambiance of lust. All this just created with the plucks of the dulcimer and the smoky bass instruments. Beautifully backed by the grand orchestral flow of violins in "Blue Jay" is a traditional Balkan song sung with emotion countering the orchestra. The pace accelerates with "Punjaabi Love Affair" and "Thai Ways," catchy dance tunes thanks to the melodically-played sitar and mandolin, definitely some of the lighter, more fun tracks in the album. Flamenco-laced "Mi Corazon" could be mistaken for the Gypsy Kings for a moment, but will nonetheless make you want to learn the damn dance and release all energy.
Each track seems to be composed with such attention as if it is the only track on the album. And each has just the right dose of vocals and instrumentation that leaves you content and happy - yes, plain happy- not wanting more, not wanting less. And the album is complete - the tracks are not to be isolated from one another - just like the compass, you can't have east without the west.