These days, the contemporary yet retro garage sound -- exemplified by Atlanta miscreants The Black Lips, and carried further by Thee Oh Sees, Bass Drum of Death and Night Beats -- has much to owe to the arguable forefathers of melodic white noise, The Velvet Underground. With the undercurrent of noise a backdrop, contemporary acts, including the Bay Area’s Sic Alps, have a lot of room to maneuver with off-kilter violins and distortion abound. Add to that the enraged, impulsive motivation behind Raw Power, and you have yourself a rock-solid noise album.
Opener track “Glyphs” channels the notion to heart, distortion teeming from every discernible corner. A swelling violin ensemble accompanies the cerebral, cathartic noise jam and ultimate banger, quite an opener for the album. “God Bless Her, I Miss Her” is an irresistible shoulder-shaker and finger-snapping little ditty. “Lazee Son” slows down the pace of the album considerably, as with “Thylacine Man,” channeling a more subdued Brian Jonestown Massacre and the rare, quiet moments in between frenetic spurts of spontaneous psychedelia. It picks right back up again with “Polka Vat,” a gritty intermission that separates the album from straight noise and its slower tracks.
The slightly more melodic “Wake Up, It’s Over II” sees the undercurrent of noise taking a more melodic path into rock and roll, but it still dabbles in the distortion that it’s steeped in. Headbanging “Drink Up!” is a highlight of the album, implementing a steadier set of drones and instrumental freakouts than previous tracks. The album closes on a cyclical note, with the orchestra making another cameo in “Rock Races” and a lonely piano-vocal duet with final track “See You On The Slopes” leaving the listener on a rather poignant, yet gorgeous note.
As a collective whole, Sic Alps is far more dynamic than previous release Napa Asylum. Yet if Times New Viking and Sonic Youth don’t tickle your eardrums, chances are you won’t enjoy Sic Alps in the slightest. Understandably the noise can come off as jarring, especially combined with the implementation of falsetto vocals. If you do fancy distortion, however, drop whatever you’re doing and download the album at your earliest convenience. Sic Alps towers above the rest of the ample retro garage acts today, in both scope and measure.