Album Reviews

Alaska In Winter – Holiday

(Regular Beat) UK release date: 27 April 2009


The soaring synths and buttock-clenchingly heavy bassline of opener We Are Blind And Riding The Merry-Go-Round might be immediately engaging, but Holiday’s early promise is quickly fettered by the endless pummelling of horrible drum sounds and the sickly layers of discordant vocoder-drenched vocal outbursts.

Alaska In Winter is the pseudonym for Brandon Bethancourt’s electronic project, purportedly born from Bethancourt’s days spent recording music in an isolated cabin in Alaska – what is it with isolated cabins and musical creation these days? Holiday is his second LP.

Berlin is a salient example of Holiday’s ill-conceived drum sounds. In fact, as the discordant vocals sweep in to accompany the melee, Berlin embodies everything that is bad about Holiday. And while Highlander Pt. 1, Knorrpromenade, and Streetgang Pt.1 all suffer severely from a woeful lack of imagination to drum sounds and patterning, it is the almost relentless grating of the vocoder-straddling vocals that signal Holiday’s downfall.

Holiday administers its own remedy for such ailments in the form of a rich tapestry of glistening synth-fiddling which rarely ceases to sound powerful and inspiring. But this merit alone is no basis on which to give Holiday praise.

The tail-end of Holiday is much better – suggesting that, like a nervous first date, Holiday is just a bit slow to get going. Streetgang Pt. 3 is a kaleidoscopic highlight, with richly arpeggiated synths set against a harrowing backdrop. Close Your Eyes is another strong point – the dominating and rousing bass synth reminiscent of Fischerspooner.

By the time the anthemic and irresistible album-closer, Horsey Horse Pt. 2 has galloped over the horizon you can’t help but think that Holiday exhibits some awful track sequencing. Flip the album round and front-load the good songs, and Holiday would be much more listenable.

Cull the filler altogether, and Holiday could’ve made a strong EP. But the album is just too devoid of any urgency or variation, and sounds haggard and hackneyed.

Alaska In Winter’s MySpace page self-preeningly parps that he has “no recollection” of how the album was made “other than vague fragmented late night memories that involve synthesizers, Berliner Pils, haus musik, and possibly some singing”. Possibly. But perhaps if he had paid more attention, Alaska In Winter’s second LP might be a bit better, for in reality his nescience of any real creativity or engaging variation makes for an ultimately boring Holiday.


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