None of the songs on ALEXALONEWORLD, the debut album from alexalone, end where they begin. The longest track on the record, “Black Rainbow,” seems to hold the album’s premise: It’s a tumultuous, contentious track that has us passing a stream of cymbal hits only to be washed away in ravenously foaming guitars; its first three minutes detail the anticipation before jumping into a glimmering body of water, diving deep into its aquatic embrace, and being swept up by a maelstrom. “I’m trying to test my limits,” Alex Peterson breaks through the surface before reverting to a hushed whisper. “I’m trying to transform.”
ALEXALONEWORLD feels like a metamorphosis—a shifting of skins and textures from the viscous trudge of “Where in the World” to the glinting and fractured “Let It Go.” Venturing into this cavernous world defined by mountainous guitars and complex production, sprinkled with bits of diaristic lyrics, is a bit like falling into the grimey crevice of a twilit realm. There’s doom-tinged reverb and drones that offroad into the underworld. Listening to the album in its entirety is physically taxing.
“I try to write songs the same way I talk, and not use pronouns,” Peterson said about their lyrical world-building. “A lot of times it’s reminders of who I’ve been, things I want to remember.” There’s something surreal about alexalone’s music as a result of these contextless lyrics thrust into a vast grunge symphony inspired by bands like Low and Yo La Tengo. On “Can’t Sleep,” Peterson tiresomely, almost calmly, sings about having bad dreams: “Don’t ask me / If I’m happy,” they sing. “What does it mean to be happy?” Their vocals fade into oblivion before guitars begin hammering away.
alexalone, once the solo project of Alex Peterson, has had a vivid rebirth as a four-piece with Sam Jordan, Mari Rubio, and Andrew Hulett joining the band. Spelunking into this lineup’s debut album ALEXALONEWORLD is an exhausting journey. But there’s something about immersing oneself in this complex tapestry of proggy shoegaze that’s a refreshing excursion away from our current TikTok-paced world. It’s like treading water only to feel the tiresome force of gravity as you pull yourself out. Listening to ALEXALONEWORLD doesn’t feel grueling, but it has a leaden aftereffect.