a/lpaca: Make It Better
Released 19th March 2021
Italian space-rock psych band release their debut album, packed with interstellar grooves and soaked in engulfing waves of synth-driven proto-psychedelia.
The last few years have seen the world of psych pushed again to the fore as bands like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Slift have raised the bar to produce some amazing albums. As we drive through 2021, the world around us making less and less sense, Italy’s a/lpaca throw their hat in the intergalactic ring with their debut album, Make It Better. On the evidence of this album, they are definitely positioning themselves alongside Slift as purveyors of a sound that should be coming from the outer reaches of the galaxy rather than Mother Earth, swirling waves of an always futuristic sound engulfing you right from the off on led single Beat Club. The synth cruises around and drags you into the compressed and modulated vocals that are one of the trademarks they rely on throughout. The sound is dense, navigating asteroids as they venture further out.
But there is something more primitive that holds the songs together, the beat of Make It Better pulsating from within to create a woozy hypnosis. Time passes unnoticed, autobahn lights flicker past at night like Muybridge’s Horse In Motion as tunnels surround and pull you through black holes, automated and alien. Once hooked, there is little chance of escape. a/lpaca are a band indebted to the prog-psych of the sixties. There are clear influences of Pink Floyd, Can, Neu! and Soft Machine, the latter getting a clear namecheck on the wonderfully robotic I Am Kevin Ayers. The songs though come filtered through a Stooges-style proto-punk that pounds the beat, a beat the band preoccupy themselves with, forever changing yet constantly throbbing and it is in that where a/lpaca make their mark.
It’s all pulled together with a sheen of considered construction, each piece, each detail carefully placed to add the depth to draw you in, the subtlety to shine out from the dense mass. Bass riffs drop suddenly, guitar licks appear from nowhere, gone in a flash and never to be repeated. Lose your attention for a second and you may miss a small piece of the jigsaw, a clue to the identity of the impersonal spirit that looms, cold and harsh and yet irresistible, a distant red alert drawing your gaze, with each listen revealing more of the layers that make up the whole picture. It is a siren song from a distant planet, a distress call from LV426.
Words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.