If The Wire had another season, Alberteen might get a shot at covering Waits’ `Way Down in the Hole´ for the opening credits. Well, if only they weren’t English. Nevertheless, the critics are unanimous: Alberteen makes cinematic music. The buzzing guitars, distant noises and slow tempo jazz melodies do take you on a cruise. It’s that part of the cinematic experience where nothing really happens, where we simply are.
London’s alternative rock quintet or, as they put it in the name of their own label, rhythm and noir group released their fourth album Lowenva mid-February. These guys have been around for a decade and that is how long they’ve been nurturing their signature style. What is noir music? There are two answers to that question I can think of. One, it’s jazz music similar to the soundtracks of classic noir movies. Two, it’s the music that belongs in a bleak concrete setting suitable for laconic conversations of cynical antiheroes and their nemeses.
Alberteen’s sound might be both, but it’s also more than that. The reference that comes to mind is Tindersticks. Just like them, Alberteen carry the heritage of orchestral music and lounge jazz, but they add their brand of pathos to it. This way they make extremely modern music with nostalgic overtones. No honest cynic would ever make such soothing and tender noise. And no honest nemeses would ever leave the town listening to `Baby You’ve Served Your Time.´
This is 2020 noir and our guy’s sipping wine listening to `Unknown Entity,´ dancing in his living room. (He’s got an amazing collection of Serge Gainsbourg’s or Mick Harvey’s covers of Serge Gainsbourg’s music!) The surfing guitars and “krautrockish” drum and bass paired with the low and unvarying vocal of our storyteller speak of weariness and even acedia. Yet, I can dance to this kind of sadness and it makes the whole experience very positive. An unusual range of instruments, from clarinet to theremin add another layer to this convincing story.
The point at which this album really kicks in for me is the third song, `The Greenland Shark.´ By the fifth song, they sink into nautical themes and I get kind of lost, but `Barbarossa,´ what is I guess a tribute to Kraftwerk’s Das Model, grabs my attention again. When we reach number nine called `The Rec,´ I’m ready for another spin. And, yes, you can spin this album over and over, it is endless, just like they sing in `Lowenva.´ Indeed, it’s a classy album smokers will enjoy a lot more than the non-smokers.
Let’s bring it all back to the cinematic element of music. It’s obviously very important but, in my humble opinion, the only movie you should imagine this music in is the one you’re currently living. Lowenva can make losers feel cool and any closed space tolerable. Grab the nearest person (or a pillow) and swing.
Lowenva is available to buy or stream here.