Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

1201_Alarm throws the kitchen sink at their debut

April 7, 2020

Ostensibly a jazz record, 1201_Alarm makes their debut Hello_World into a farflung, ambitious pastiche of bright colors, clever ideas, high concepts, and appealing payoffs. (I expect no less from a band that is named after an obscure but amazing aspect of the first Moon landing.) “Toastwife” starts off with the sound of email sending before launching into a slow-groove jazz concept underpinned by chopped up phone dial tones and staccato arpeggiator runs. The use of email and phone sounds is definitely saying something. The name of the band is saying something. Everything is saying something, here.

“Qbit” starts off with glitchy computer noise and hip-hop inspired vocal sampling before morphing into a split-identity tune that layers an ominous, grumbling bass under a dreamy, reverbed melody (an upbeat hip-hop kit beat keeps time). Instead of going jazz, it amps up the drama and goes for high sci-fi cyber-punk electronica. Anyone who likes the Daft Punk Tron soundtrack (or its remixes) will love it. It’s wild but also very satisfying. How does this connect to a jazz record? Follow-up “Stuxnet” is a full-on, Skrillex-style dubstep sci-fi electro track with a biiiiig wub drop and a bangin’ horn line throughout. (“Bubbles” makes a similar move but with less wub.)

“Hello_World” opens with the sound of a dial-up connection getting going, introduces distorted guitars and big rock drums, then drops into big band jazz mentality (with a rock bass line and drum line still going). “Flim Flam” is a trip-hop tune. “Pripyat” is an ambient tune? With hang drum? And sax solo? And it works? It takes until “Skylife” (track 10) before there’s a clip that’s almost/mostly entirely a jazz cut. And it’s a good jazz cut, a bit of a palette cleanser after their aggressive mashing of influences together.

Not every moment of the record works; there are some moments (even some mentioned above) that feel too far afield from the main thrust of the record to land–your mileage may vary on how many of these there are. But the ambition is fully there, and the chops are there, and the rest is up to you. If you want adventurous listening that mashes jazz, electronica, and rock, you’ve got a new thing to listen to here in Hello_World.

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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