Alexander Tucker

Don't Look Away

Out this week on Thrill Jockey, a supremely confident album from a songwriter who has found his place and knows his music

In the six years since Alexander Tucker last released a solo record, he has expanded his range in a dizzying fashion, making music with Daniel O’Sullivan as Grumbling Fur, composing for theatre in Zurich and setting up Undimensioned Press for his comics output. Don’t Look Away is a return to the music he made with Dorwytch (2011) and Third Mouth (2012), gathering up the threads as the third part of a trilogy. Both those albums had the preternatural focus of the truly psychedelic, a clarity of vision derived from looking deep within. Don’t Look Away uses the same style; it’s full of songs that are simultaneously personal and universal, beautiful and exceedingly trippy.

The album cover hints heavily at an exploration of the nature of being, with the stages of man lined up in a Lovecraft moonscape. Its first half generates a shimmering atmosphere around Tucker’s calm baritone, clear guitars and strings, and a series of deeply lovely melodies. ‘Visiting Again’ is a typical track – a quietly gorgeous tune full of sliding strings and a tippy-tappy beat. Tucker’s undemonstrative voice addresses us in highly reasoned tones but his suggestions (such as, “Isolate the speech in motion where you’re looking at the time that you can’t quite put your finger on”) are disconcerting. It is mysterious and seductive, dropping in and out of focus. ‘Sisters and Me’ discusses people as “organic computers”, over plucked guitars and bass. ‘Boys Names’ moves the bass to a piano figure that repeats as “the radio spits” and Tucker intones, “Gregory and Peter and Paul / Matthew and Luke and then John” as though reading from a Bible of his own. The delicate finger-picking guitar on ‘Ghost on the Ledge’ and the pained perfection of Tucker’s vocals sounds like Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence recording in an upgraded studio.

Then ‘Gloops Void (Give It Up)’ pulls the focus from a pastoral, 60s music to something more 2010s, with a vocal samples and unquiet loops from Nik Void of Carter Tutti Void. Its introspection fits perfectly with the mood of the album, introducing new textures. ‘A-Z’ is a lullaby that seems childlike in its simplicity but rides on a cushion of meticulously arranged cello and guitars. The two closing tracks sink deep into the endless beyond: ‘Yesterday’s Honey’ sounds like a fragment of early Neil Young, and ‘ISHUONAWAYISHANAWA’ has whispered vocals and a collapsing orchestra.

Don’t Look Away is a supremely confident album from a songwriter who has found his place and knows his music. It completes a trilogy which is essential listening for anyone who wants to hear why the psychedelic lineage of the past 50 years is fresh and alive.

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