Thrill Jockey

Alexander Tucker - Don’t Look Away (Red Vinyl)

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There is a distinct otherworldliness to Alexander Tucker’s art. Psychedelic without ever resorting to tropes of the genre, it’s the subtle thread connecting every aspect of his output, from the vibrant and hypnotic avant-pop of Grumbling Fur, his duo with Daniel O’Sullivan, to extended drone collaborations with Charlemagne Palestineand Stephen O’Malley, to his beautiful yet strangely unnerving paintings and comics.

Continuing to carve out a space as one of Britain’s most forward-thinking songwriters, on Don’t Look Away, Tucker displays distinctly honest vocals with subtle shifts through unexpected variations.

Don’t Look Away contrasts traditional song structure with experimental collage and rich orchestral arrangements. Viewing Don’t Look Away as the final part of a trilogy, alongside Dorwytch (2011) and Third Mouth (2012), Tucker explains, “the composition across these three albums feels like a move away from my earlier records towards something clearer and traditional but still maintaining my love of manipulating source material into new shapes and forms.”

‘Sisters and Me’ employs a simple palette of plucked guitars, bass, and Tucker’s free-floating baritone voice. A repetitive piano is the unexpected foundation for the cascading guitar and rising melody of ‘Boys Names’. These arrangements allow Tucker’s songwriter skills to truly shine. Between structured songcraft and deconstructed arrangements, Tucker weaves psychedelic compositions employing bright finger plucked guitar figures, driving electronic beats and stately cello patterns. Tucker employs tape loops and repetition on the glowing drones of ‘Gloops Void (Give It Up)’, featuring Nik Void (Carter Tutti Void / Factory Floor), and brings in warped vocal samples on the swirling, ritualistic album closer ‘Ishuonawayishanawa’.

Recorded over an extended period in London and mixed in Daniel O’Sullivan’s Dream Lion Studio, Don’t Look Away emerged during a particularly prolific creative period for Tucker. The album finally came together while Tucker was in Zürich composing for the Schauspielhaus Zürich, and while he was establishing UNDIMENSIONED, his own publishing imprint as an active member of London’s wildly creative independent comic scene. As a result, Tucker’s wider work feels more present here than on previous recordings and this shows itself often in the lyrics, which range from relationships, including the uncomfortable ones we often have with ourselves, to sci-fi imagery and cosmic horror.

The musical landscape of Don’t Look Away is illustrated on the cover’s hand cut collage, created by Alexander Tucker. Viewing each aspect of his artistic output, be it visual art, comics or music, less as separate disciplines but more of as part of one connected whole - Tucker studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and has always drawn comparison between the layering of paint and the layering of sound - he explains: “The worlds I evoke through sound sit alongside the imagery within my comics, drawing and paintings. There is a melancholia and sadness about the transitory aspects of our earthly lives, alongside a fascination with the beauty and inexplicable nature of existence.”

The unknown explored in his visual art is adventurously traveled on Don’t Look Away. The music, lyrics, and artwork all work in tandem to conjure a universe that feels as fantastical, and mysterious as it does familiar and warm.