Published Sep 11, 2019No one makes constantly mutating and bizarrely intimate music quite like (Sandy) Alex G. Like his previous album, Rocket, on which Alex Giannascoli fused together everything from violin-laced Americana to distorted trip-hop, House of Sugar similarly displays his controlled spontaneity by casting temporal feelings of euphoria or indecisiveness into oblique packages, while still being wholly cohesive and uniquely (Sandy) Alex G.
On House of Sugar, the Philadelphia-based musician craftily runs away on two distinct tangents — tender alt-country twang and futuristic, digitized electronic music. With the former, the plodding country number "Crime" and the achingly sweet "Southern Sky" show once again that Giannascoli's dazed singing style is a strangely perfect fit for these kinds of vaguely nostalgic and estranged folksy melodies. With the latter, the glitchy, computerized stylings of "Near" and "Sugar" sonically leer toward impending doom and bleak utopian sounds, yet are grounded in rather simple, human emotion — acts of indulgence and love and the underlying guilt that can inadvertently accompany those feelings.
At nine albums in and only 26, Giannascoli hasn't really changed his humble attitude, his quirky sense of humour or his whatever-goes approach. On lead track "Walk Away," many of Giannascoli's signature pitched-shifted vocals ooze together, initially sounding distressingly chaotic, but then sublimate into a glorious, unsettling strut-like pattern. "Gretel" is the quintessential (Sandy) Alex G song: strewn with gritted, downbeat guitar strums, inscrutable knells and rings, and enigmatic lyrics faded by the fogginess of déjà vu and intoxicating illusion. In a more direct approach, "Hope" bluntly memorializes a friend who overdosed on fentanyl, recalling the unwinding tendencies of "Gnaw" from his 2010 album, Race, during his Bandcamp days.
House of Sugar steps into volatile, subterranean moods not quite grounded in reality, flitting towards soupy daydreams and murky fantasy worlds. Giannascoli's creativity is endless and as he continues his never-ending output of mysteriously disorienting and strangely familiar songs, he's becoming stronger and weirder with every album. (Domino)