Monday, 5 April 2021

Aleph - Kairos (2021)

Country: Poland
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 8 Mar 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Before I get into what this album does, I should point out that I believe the name of the band is simply Aleph. I'm seeing it listed a lot as Aleph א, but א is just the character aleph, the first letter in various Semitic languages, especially Hebrew. The cover only lists Aleph, so I presume the א is just decorative redundancy. While we're talking language, the album title is a Greek word for time, because they had two of them. Chronos meant the time through which we travel sequentially at the rate of a second per second. Kairos defines the right time, from the perspective of opportunity or advantage, like when a favourable omen dictates or the stars are right. I hope 8th March, 2021 is kairos for Kairos.

It's certainly a fascinating album. I came to it as psychedelic rock, which it is, but it's as often prog and even sludge metal, all woven into a heady mix that's as unusual as it is impressive. While there are an abundance of moments that conjure up comparisons, the overall feel of the album is like nothing I've heard before, which state of affairs always makes me happy. Sometimes it reminds of Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd, but it's always heavier, even at its most pastoral. There are moments when its strands drift into Hawkwind territory but it never stays there. There's sixties hippie psych experimentation in swathes but it's phrased more like a seventies hard rock album and sometimes a nineties alternative one, as a wild song like A Swarm of Dead Insects underlines.

This song is the most fascinating of all the fascinating songs here and there are seven to choose from, including the sub-minute long Intro. This one is sludgy and alternative, with staccato moments where things start and stop for effect. It has the most overtly harsh voice here, one that's partway between hardcore shout and death growl but more restrained than either. There are plenty of points where it sounds somewhat like Primus covering Pantera, which is a bizarre concept I find myself on board with. Maciej Janus's bass is very obvious, bringing Animals as Leaders to mind as well. A jazzy performance from drummer Kuba Grzywacz often finds unusual rhythms that conjure up ideas of ritual. I also love how it ends, like this swarm of dead insects devoured the Twilight Zone theme tune.

If that's the most fascinating track, the others aren't too far behind. Invert is a wonderful piece that's so vivid that what I'm imagining is probably way off the mark, but it feels to me like a race backwards in time until we find ourselves in a babbling brook as a flight of pterodactyls soar over us chattering. Quite what hunters we find ourselves running from, I have no idea. I couldn't quite see that much, but it is a very visual sort of song.

Doubt in between them is a sort of interlude before things get weird again. It's quieter and softer but organic and enticing with patterns sucking us in. That happens all the more on Whale, Pt II, the closer, which is magnificently mathematical, as if math rock was always supposed to sound like this. Patterns are everywhere here, woven together ever closer during an entirely instrumental piece that whispers past ten minutes. It's space rock and math rock in tandem and it makes me wonder just how much I've heard in the way of vocals up until now. Resistance certainly isn't instrumental, however much it feels initially like a space rock take on Tom Waits's In Shades.

This isn't an instrumental allbum but it somehow feels like it, once Whale, Pt. II wraps up. Those weird rhythms seem to mess with the passage of time, as in chronos rather than kairos, becoming bizarrely Lovecraftian. Is this what non-Euclidean means? We just had to translate it into musical terms? Where am I? I certainly feel like I've travelled to somewhere weird and wonderful and the journey was just as notable. This is refreshingly different and there's at least one previous album to explore too, even if it doesn't seem to include a Whale, Pt. I.

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