Alex Calder Time EP(Captured Tracks) Buy it from Insound
It might be a disservice to hypothesise about labelmate influences when it comes to Alex Calder. After all, fellow Captured Tracks cohort Mac DeMarco was a former band colleague in Makeout Videotape. The label exuberantly promotes the Calder-esque aesthetic of smooth ambience and pulsing grooves with the likes of Beach Fossils (and their DIIV/Heavenly Beat extensions), plus the more experimental inclinations, which draws reference to The Soft Moon as well.
But whether Calder appreciates a direct influence or happens merely to share creative commonalities with those artists, it is indicative of an independent record label ploughing its furrow in the most effective manner. There’s a certain reliability in the Captured Tracks catalogue, which serves those partial to ethereal aesthetics juxtaposed with driving rhythms.
It’s not just close to his artistic home where Calder’s sound strikes a resemblance, though. The recent Suun’s sophomore, and last year’s Sam Flax record, both delve into similar territory in terms of their aesthetic. What separates Calder as his own entity in the dream pop landscape is to reduce where others (excluding Suuns) decide to exponentially expand.
While Time is a fairly abstract creation, its form resonates as relevant to the content. On Suki And Me, we’re held at an intangible distance from the lyrics (as we are throughout) it offers; instead, a hazy outline of the concept. In that way, it seems like a veiled secret language he uses to communicate that seems more personal than if it were an overt lullaby. It feels as though we’re prying into the inner depths of a relationship with the detail beyond reach. If you need specifics, exact motifs, or clarified thought (gossip, basically), then perhaps this isn’t for you.
Calder deals in a different currency to isolated hooks, taking his lead from the instrumental focus on movement of passages - being less refined than a loop, riff, or even a single note which takes precedence. The effect being that no part of the sound becomes a vestigial waste, with waves of chords counteracted by zings of sharp arpeggios; and deep, luscious basslines opposed with the chatter of stiff hi-hat and snare.
Time is a rich tapestry with undefined and pliable parameters, where its fluid existence crystallises momentarily before returning to blurred unreality. It’s not possible, nor is it the point, to search for a simple resolving message in the suspenseful aura. Here, experience overrides meaning, where with each listen there are intriguing allusions that gradually unveil an understated but biting attitude akin to a dissolved acid trip interpretation of I Am The Walrus.
Ultimately, Time’s liquidity, while mesmerising to some, will be a distance myth to others. And while there is a certain authority in the simplicity, with trust and belief in that sound, Calder might consider a few revelations in the mist, a few more clarified glints to intersperse the uncertainty. For this record to succeed completely, it needed to offer the listener an experience that we can re-apply to ourselves. While it's fascinating in nature, full of characterful eccentricities, it suffices on an abstract level; on a personal one, it seems beyond reach. It feels as tangible as time itself, and in that context it resonates as well.25 March, 2013 - 04:19 — Matt Bevington