Plumbiferous Media

Alibi Coast - Sebastian Blanck

Jul 22nd 2010
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Alibi Coast - Sebastian BlanckSebastian Blanck
Alibi Coast
Score: 54

After play­ing with NYC group Black Dice, artist and musi­cian Sebas­t­ian Blanck began record­ing on his own, and Tues­day’s Ali­bi Coast is his first solo album. With Ali­bi Coast, Blanck com­bines instru­men­tal expe­ri­ence from Black Dice along with con­tri­bu­tions from sev­er­al vocal­ists to cre­ate an inter­est­ing, though not entire­ly unique, album. But unique­ness aside, when Ali­bi Coast works well, it’s cer­tain­ly a plea­sure to lis­ten to. The prob­lem, then, is that the same idea can only be a plea­sure for so long.

As far as musi­cian­ship goes, the instru­men­tals of Ali­bi Coast have quite a bit of tech­ni­cal prowess. Every­thing is excel­lent from a pure­ly sci­en­tif­ic stand­point, cre­at­ing an over­ly sol­id, utter­ly relaxed sound that is actu­al­ly some­what over­whelm­ing. The slight­ly more pro­nounced bass of “Empire of the Free” is an excel­lent addi­tion to the track, adding per­fect­ly to the tone of the song. The gui­tar flirts expert­ly with near-uni­son on “Black Sand­ed Beach,” pro­ceed­ing into a fit­ting solo, and, though in an utter­ly sub­tle man­ner, is the defin­ing voice of “Tum­bling Skies,” serv­ing to clear­ly define it as a track entire­ly unlike the pre­vi­ous and sub­se­quent tracks, as well as, arguably, the best track on Ali­bi Coast.

But look­ing into “Tum­bling Skies“ ‘s suc­cess more care­ful­ly, it’s prob­a­bly not exact­ly amaz­ing for Ali­bi Coast that one of the best tracks is unlike any of the oth­ers. For the most part, as fit­ting and well craft­ed as the sounds of Ali­bi Coast may be, they’re so drowned in their relax­ing sound that they often sound lack­ing any sort of pas­sion. There’s a dif­fer­ence between cre­at­ing a relaxed album and one almost entire­ly devoid of ener­gy. It does get bet­ter as it pro­gress­es, to a degree, but it’s a bad sign that the sec­ond track, “Noth­ing Left to Lose,” can have an upbeat tem­po and active drum line and still sound com­plete­ly tir­ing and dull.

Blanck is joined by a num­ber of vocal­ists through Ali­bi Coast, allow­ing him to make his own vocal mark on the album while cre­at­ing gen­er­al­ly quite well-craft­ed har­monies between his voice and those of his fel­low singers. Blanck him­self is pos­sessed of a par­tic­u­lar­i­ly gen­tle voice, which seems to effort­less­ly swim through the music of Ali­bi Coast. While this cer­tain­ly helps to devel­op the relaxed sound of the music, it does, at times, stray towards sound­ing some­what irri­tat­ing, and it occa­sion­al­ly seems lack­ing in vari­ety. Of course, that is where the oth­er vocal­ists come in. Car­o­line Polachek (of pop group Chair­lift) is prob­a­bly the best of Blanck­’s con­trib­u­tors, espe­cial­ly on “Answers,” where her more force­ful voice com­ple­ments Blanck­’s quite well. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, at their worst, the guest vocal­ists can sound more super­flu­ous than any­thing else.

Lyri­cal­ly, Ali­bi Coast fits its musi­cal mode quite well, how­ev­er, it does­n’t do much more than fit, as rep­e­ti­tion and frankly mediocre lyrics don’t do much to improve the album. As a gen­er­al rule, the lyrics seem to be there more to extend the sound than any­thing else, as lines like “I remem­ber being with you and watch­ing our mem­o­ries fade / And I’ll nev­er remem­ber / Why I should­n’t have stayed” epit­o­mize “gener­ic.” Rep­e­ti­tion is com­mon, but, as it tends to occur on the best lines rather than, as is so often the case, the worst, it’s not near­ly as detri­men­tal as it could be.

Ali­bi Coast as a whole oscil­lates between being noth­ing more than soporif­ic and being tru­ly engag­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing. The worst offend­ers, the first few tracks, give way to much more inter­est­ing sounds late in the album, such as the dark major­i­ty of “One Sided Town,” pas­sion­ate regard­less of being pur­pose­ful­ly lethar­gic or force­ful­ly angry. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there’s so much of Ali­bi Coast that is frus­trat­ing­ly banal, and not near­ly enough excel­lence to tru­ly make up for all the rest. Ali­bi Coast is not a great album, but at the same time, it’s worth a lis­ten, at least at times.

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