Record of the Week

Algiers ”The Underside of Power”

”The Underside of Power”

It’s safe to say “The Underside of Power” seethes from the first second. We are allowed to take part in the not-acceptance of Algiers with the conditions out there in the world – and as Lee Tesche, Ryan Mahan and James Fisher are still living dispersed in London, Atlanta and New York they are experiencing a lot of different things in their daily lives which are calling up the discomfort in them.

Two influential sound schools are meeting in the music that Algiers creates from their anger. On the one side we are reminded of the dark, religiously charged 80s cosmos of a band like Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. On the other sides current world music influences are playing an important role, especially in the downright daring openness of the band in regards to different rhythms and tempi and an equivalence of all instruments that is hardly ever found like this – you could in all of Algiers’ songs “switch” from one instrument to the next and each one would keep the total tension. The range of the songs stretches from evocative ethno rock to drifting drone ambient intermediate pieces to haunting, balladic hymns. This complexity is also being reflected in James Fisher’s vocals. He is singing, speaking and rapping with various tongues and equally complex colorations. Fisher is sharing sermons and divinations with us, lections from the history books of bygone cultures, glances into the crystal ball of the future and the disenchantments of the own day-to-day life. We thus learn of the aberrations of the history of civilization, individual mistakes and fears, as well as the infinite sea of absurdities of human existence. But “Algiers are not answering your questions, they have enough paradoxes to come to term with themselves”, as Christina Mohr phrased it accurately in her review of the previous album “Algiers”.

It will be interesting to see what the impact of their being on tour with Depeche Mode, whose current album “Spirit” is futilely flirting with a repoliticization and is ineffectively raising the question for the absence of a revolution, will be. Are the fans of Depeche Mode ready for that much reality? One can only hope that Algiers will finally be able to break through the cycle of darkness (the last song of the album is called “The Cycle, The Spiral, Time to Go Down Slowly”) and that their music will be able to get past the status of an insider tip.
Thomas Venker

Translation by Denise Oemcke.

This review was published in german in a modified version in the print edition of Kölner Stadtrevue.

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Thomas Venker & Linus Volkmann
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