The Alps
Easy Action
Mexican Summer

That the San Francisco–based Alps just released their fourth album, Easy Action, in a cover that folds out into a psychic pyramid—likely used to stare into during the proceedings—should not be much of a surprise. For most bands, the stunt would reek of gimmickry covering up the lack of psychedelic resin on the actual records, but for the Alps this novelty (my parents stashed the dope under a psychic pyramid in the ’70s), it can only accompany this heavy and complex leap into an entirely new vortex of head music. On their first three turns, the Alps existed as a somewhat anonymous trio making incidental music with nondescript titles, similar to visual Kratut-composers like Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream. They are worth digging into, if only because they play like soundtracks to imaginary films, full of desert landscapes and telescoped visions of the outer nebulas, all shot in widescreen and full-color. Those releases for the esteemed Type label felt more like the background, rewarding if you step beyond the surface, but not seen as vividly as a functioning band as on Easy Action.

Now Alps are much less mysterious (a good thing) and freewheeling in their studied, yet outre, form of jamming. Listeners have had time to absorb the aforementioned past and have digested the work of each member’s “other” side projects. You can hear the disparate textures of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s Tarentel and the synth glissandos of Alexis Georgopoulos’ ARP influencing bits and pieces of the atmosphere on Easy Action. Even Georgopoulos’ short-lived brittle-funk band Tussle is inflected in the Tropicalia-looping folk groove of “For Isabel.” Though entirely instrumental, Easy Action feels wonderfully forced to be that sprawling mass of a unique psychedelic experience, but which also touches upon the many records in time that have repeatedly melted the faces of the trio. On full-range blowouts like the title track and the drone-drowned zither waves of “Violet Hour,” we are treated to quadraphonic dimensions, best taken in loud, layered doses. When the trio unravels and turns on a soft side, like the elegiac guitar-led stopgap “Reflections of Peter Green” or the intricately woven tribal march of stand-out “Spray,” they sound as equally earthy and cosmic as those mythic, bigger than life and consciousness German bands, most notably, Agitation Free. As “Peter Green” slowly fades into “Instant Light,” it becomes an almost dawn-of-man type of sonic transcendence. Taken as a whole, it covers a lot of terrain. Easy Action is another progression, not unlike Emeralds in 2010, of a formerly shrouded psych-band coming out of the haze and into their own kaleidoscopic world.
Kevin J. Elliott