Alameda have a gift for complex, spatial, Can-inspired forms, richly ornamented and open to sonic and tonal improvisation. On Eurodrome, they look back at tradition with a fresh pair of eyes, delivering a record that is as concise and pithy as it is intriguing and fresh.
Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska
What does Alameda have to do with Kill ‘Em All? Until now, paraphrasing the most die-hard Metallica fans, I thought that the only good thing Alameda ever did was Kill ‘Em All, meaning their debut album Późne królestwo. In spite of the band’s founder, Kuba Ziołek, receiving a prestigious cultural award along the way, subsequent records made by Alameda’s shifting constellations could not quite match the first one, recorded still as a trio (with Mikołaj Zieliński on bass and Tomek Popowski on drums).I’m not counting the mother of all Alamedas here, which explains the numbers of later editions, i.e. Ziołek’s 2011 solo EP, recorded as Alameda County Death Cult and endowed with the longest title I’ve ever seen.Yet this particular release seems to be hidden from the world – I only found the songs here and here, plus the only interview with the artist at the time about the origins of Alameda/Alamedas.
Późne królestwo (2013) was suspended between prog rock and black metal, occasionally venturing into folk – the basic line-up managed to produce music that was both evocative and dramatically witty.Immersed in the past and yet offering a new look at a number of guitar traditions. “Teraz widzę już tylko rzekę”, with its elaborate structure, is one of the best tracks produced on the Polish scene in recent years and I often return to it.Later on Alameda grew in numbers, not entirely chronologically and not entirely with respect to quality, although each new release was invariably – and often exaggeratedly – hailed by critics.At Unsound, they were supposed to play as a quartet, but finally there were five of them onstage. Afterwards, they recorded material for Duch Tornada, which was released in 2015 – too improvised for my taste, and in a way superfluous, copying certain aspects of the earlier outfit Innercity Ensemble.Then there were the two albums by Stara Rzeka and others by T’ien L’ai, where the Alameda substance was also more or less present. The Luminous Guitar Craft of Alameda Duo (2017) recorded by Ziołek/Zieliński was a Greek-inspired idea for acoustic guitars, and last year’s Czarna Woda by Alameda 4 presented a heavier guitar-based sound.
Alameda 5 is not just Kuba Ziołek and Mikołaj Zieliński, but three other accomplished musicians: Rafał Iwański, very active on the Polish scene in terms of electroacoustics and percussion instruments, Jacek Buhl, drummer and improviser, formerly active in Bydgoszcz-based band Maestro Trytony, and Łukasz Jędrzejczak, who started out on the hardcore scene and, apart from the aforementioned T’ien L’ai, also plays in Duży Jack and the post-punk Javva (with Zieliński), whose record I’m eagerly looking forward to this year.
Moving on, finally, to Eurodrome – this is the first second album (sic) in the history of all Alamedas, which to an extent verifies earlier ideas and enables musicians and listeners alike to take a fresh look at the band.The band, which is no longer as spontaneous – and, by the same token, as chaotic – as on Duch Tornada, but know exactly what they want to play and how.I’m tempted to treat Eurodrome as a conceptual album, which emphasises the role of each individual musician and is filled with carefully crafted sound and ideas for a complex story unfolding over 50 minutes.
This is an interesting compilation of ideas: from the electroacoustic, sample-delic “Blitz-Krieg-Spiel”, the growing krautrock passages of “Tubarao”, Jacek Buhl’s brilliant drumming that adds to the structure rather than creating an improvised, sloppy form (“Embryo”) and intriguing ideas to combine 4/4 rhythm with guitar riffs (“CDTE”) to song structures that, while quite unorthodox, remain very melodious (“Roam the Bottom”).
Alameda have a gift for complex, spatial, Can-inspired forms, open to sonic and tonal improvisation and richly ornamented.Eurodrome is clearly a thought-out work, able to captivate the listener (brilliant passage between “Embryo” and “CDTE”).The second track is actually a great introduction to the album, reflecting the cumulation of subsequent layers – from percussion instruments, to bass, guitar, electronica, and all the details and sonic effects which flourish in the minutes to come against the backdrop of the distinctive, catchy and pulsating axis of the piece.“Cassius” is another solid moment, which smoothly combines a number of motifs: from the initial percussion instruments with voice and electronica in the background, through steadily growing drums, to a more metallic sounding rhythm and the mighty guitar finale.The European concept contained in the title is not meant literally – random, abstract statements in various languages are anything but political, leaving the listener focused on the music – something Alameda is really quite good at. I like this ‘orchestral’ sound and sensible division of roles, as a result of which each minute of the album is used to the maximum, practically without any low points.Even if the pulsating rhythm is the most emphasised element, the result is clear and consistent, escaping triviality.The rhythmical layer is coherent, and Ziołek’s voice, adding a song-like quality to the intense music, appears in all the right moments as simply another sound in the mix rather than an overbearing singer in the foreground.On Eurodrome, Alameda look back at the 1970s tradition with a fresh pair of eyes, delivering a record that is as concise and pithy as it is intriguing and fresh.Definitely the best thing they’ve released since Późne królestwo.
Alameda 5, Eurodrome, Instant Classic