After establishing himself as one of electronic music’s most singular producers via 2013’s sublime Drone Logic, Daniel Avery’s life has become one of motorways, departure lounges, and being abruptly parachuted into the DJ booth.
Song for Alpha reflects this liminal existence, drifting between contemplative textures more Eno than acid house, and the pummelling thumps that he’s been lubricating dance floors with for years.
Avery’s been on the move musically, too. Whilst Drone Logic was overflowing with gurgling acid, that sound had all but evaporated upon the release of his 2016 DJ-Kicks mix. At the heart of that mix were producers like Rrose and Plantary Assault Systems; architects of steely techno designed to drain the light from the room. It’s that absorbing vacuum that Song for Alpha creates in its most unrestrained moments, like the airless, ghostly pall of “Diminuendo” that explodes into panning handclaps, or the Teutonic heft of “Sensation” which thunders its way into the subconscious.
Avery’s melodic knack hasn’t been totally sidelined, though. Instead, melodies burst through the cracks between thumping seven-minute workouts - after years of a relentless club schedule Avery knows exactly when respite is needed. These ambient passages aren’t what we expect from Avery, but he instantly sounds a left-field veteran. A celestial fog wraps “TBW17”, whilst “Citizen // Nowhere” is tethered by the contrasting forces of ethereal pads and restless kickdrum. Marrying these antagonistic concepts is Song for Alpha’s genius, exemplified by the ethereal choral sweep of “Glitter” colliding with a throbbing bassline and spare beat straight from the techno canon.
The sum of Avery’s restraint and genre blending is a record that carries echoes of the club, but aspires to so much more. Gone are the peak-time weapons that peppered Drone Logic; instead Avery teases us with tension and texture, ebbing and flowing his way to something truly hypnotic. He’s previously said that this is exactly what he was aiming for; “those moments in a club when the outside world becomes little more than an inconsequential thought at the back of your head”. That vision has been totally realised, making Song for Alpha a mesmerising work of art.