Alias & Tarsier
Brendon Whitney (a.k.a. Alias) and Rona Rapadas (a.k.a. Tarsier) almost never met. The short version of the events that led to their collaboration is as follows: Tarsier heard Aliasís instrumental record, Muted, and sent him praise. Alias listened to Tarsierís music, and responded in kind. Over the next two years, mostly through the magic of the internet, the two collaborated on Brookland/Oaklyn without ever meeting face to face. They actually only met for the first time shortly before beginning to tour in support of the album.
Facially, Brookland/Oaklyn is mostly intuitive. Aliasís beats and Tarsierís vocals combine to create an ethereal and vast sound throughout the album. Much, but not all, of that vastness comes courtesy of Tarsier, whoís hauntingly delicate performances most readily recall Bjork. She bounces between breathy and emphatic, but her voice [sometimes with distortion from Alias] frequently makes the literal distance between the collaborators a third performer on the album. Regardless, the two craft a disk that very nearly does bridge all 3,000 miles separating them.
The electronic tinged beats selected seem out of character for Alias, probably best known for his position as a producer and MC from the eclectic Anticon hip hop collective. However, the emphasis many Anticon artists put on escaping restrictions and being [pardon the dirty word] progressive, the extensive use of expansive and unrappable backgrounds isnít entirely strange. [Perhaps the term background is unwarranted, as Alias brings his voice to the forefront even when heís not speaking, although that argument perhaps belongs later in the review.]
The dark and spacious pop beats highlights and expands Tarsierís voice, but occasionally dilute it as well. For much of the record, she puts on the same steady performance, wispy sounds that obviously belong in ever song but which might not be the centerpiece. Occasionally Tarsierís vocals fall below the radar, and entire swaths of the record seem focused on brining Aliasís production to the fore - particularly songs like ď5 Year Eve,Ē where Alias steals the show with a cello and his electronic loop even before he distorts the vocals and keyboards. Elsewhere, he fades a sparse drum machine loop into a set of rolling waves (ďPlane That Draws a White LineĒ), and carefully applies a guitar and organ to a standard trip hop song (ďPicking The Same LockĒ). While much of the beat from album standout ďLast NailĒ features a delicate piano that fits Tarsierís haunting vocals perfectly, Alias fills the middle of the track with a breakneck flow and a frantic drum machine that still canít get the best of him.
Brookland/Oaklyn knows that it should be a jaw dropping, awe inspiring record, and it makes it most of the way there. The record begs to be put on repeat, to keep the volume up, to wait for the change up, and to try to decipher Tarsierís meaning when Alias has fuzzed her voice to the point that it canít be differentiated from the drums. But somehow, thereís a feeling that there should be more. A bit more contrast, whether it come from another guest vocalist or Tarsier herself, would set off her voice more and keep it the focus of a few more tracks. Not that thereís anything wrong with enveloping an audience in these beats, but extra focus on Tarsier, particularly as her musical style differs from what Alias can do alone, could elevate this record to greatness.
Release date: May 23, 2006
Rating: 7.2 / 10
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