From the back cover inwards, this second full-length from the Montreal duo of Aden Evens and Ian Ilavsky conjures the blasted paranoia of their Constellation labelmates Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A map of an unidentified Middle East region depicts a crazed network of oil pipelines, power stations and industrial buildings. Likewise, the music within draws the listener into a shadowy zone of covert movements and connections.
Although mastered very quietly, and consisting largely of electronic and instrumental soundscaping, Alms is in no sense an ambient recording. Play it loud or on headphones and a vast amount of sonic detail is revealed. Setting the tone for what’s to come, the opening “Golem” overlays livid metallic scrapes and interference onto an unnerving looped rhythm. The track merges seamlessly into the lengthy “Orientalism as a Humanism,” in which great arcs of noise swoop dangerously around clanking, machine-like beats.
Re: understand the unsettling effect of combining acoustic and electronic elements to create the impression of a world out of kilter. Like GY!BE, they lament the powerlessness of the individual in the face of overwhelming state and corporate control. This they achieve by way of light touches of piano, organ and percussion within soundfields of dank, scrabbling rhythms and squally metallic drones. “On Golden Pond” slouches by ominously, its creaks and splashes suggestive of a not-so-golden stretch of water. “Radio Free Ramadi” similarly undermines its title with buzzes of static interference amid the phased blasts of electronics. Only on the affecting “Pawk” is the organic brought to the fore, with a haunting piano melody and a field recording of what sounds like exotic birdsong. Otherwise, the sense of claustrophobic dread is palpable throughout this sinister record.