This is what it sounds like to be precise while suggesting ramshackle. To be organic while sounding crafted with programs. To be harbouring a pop heart while projecting arthouse shadows. To be single-minded while constantly shifting.
That last one is most relevant because Altopalo’s second album is a record in motion. In rhythm and in mindscape.
You might find yourself thinking of the Weeknd in his looser moments, or Frank Ocean in his most abstract, as tracks such as Hail and Partysong edge closer to blurry R&B without ever giving it up altogether to a groove or a straight emotion. But Mud takes some of those same shapes and changes the atmospherics into slightly disconcerting shards of machinery, Nocturne suggests a human lost within the machinery, the breakdown at the end like the fracturing of those human parts, only to find Headlock trying to put them back together, as if being done by someone who only had a general idea what that body looked like originally, so that by the album’s final track, Now That You’re Here, some things glide into place and others judder as they clash at a subterranean level beneath humming and whirring parts.
But here’s the weird bit, or one of the weird bits about this album, Now That You’re Here feels mismatched but somehow in harmony. It’s six minutes of ambient “nothingness” that keeps pulling you in to the sometimes church-like space, that finds comfort in the absence of explanation.
Far Away From Everyone You Know doesn’t necessarily start with such an ending signposted but in retrospect the signs are there. I Am I Am is caught between that Ocean-style tenderness and a clicking, malfunctioning counterplay and the echoes of that non-linear counter carries faintly into the next track, Long Life, which seemingly promises to soothe – and almost does – but is just ambiguous enough to leave the question open. Which is where Mud arrives and retools.
That sense of motion remains throughout. In Honey for example there’s a layer of wooziness, of something off-kilter enough to challenge your balance through it all and it weaves through Lub ii too, even though it comes across as a kind of slowcore soul. Then in Powerlines the blend of electronica, R&B and almost childlike wonder makes for playful pop that disconcerts by not distorting.
It’s times like this when these four New Yorkers sound most like the offspring of Welsh trippers Gorky’s Zygotic Minci and Super Furry Animals – attractive and odd and never entirely still. Which is where we came in.