Every year requires winter records-those sounds one reaches for when cyclical freeze triggers a craving for icy synthesizers and sinister drums. This is where one finds Alias’s Pitch Black Prism, an alternately bleak and beautiful album built for headphones and hailstorms.
Few places boast a more severe climate than Maine, the artist’s home state, with its ominous forests and jagged coastlines. Listeners can feel the climate and geography exerting brutal force to the contours of Pitch Black Prism. It’s little wonder Alias’s closest stylistic peers are Burial, Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin-all of whom hail from England, land of the cadaver-colored sky. Take the eerie staccato stomp of “Amber Revisions,” which conjures the image of a precious diamond buried under an avalanche, or “Vallejo’s Sapphire Views,” with its almost nostalgic lament for East Bay greenery sinking under the reality of continental divide and sub-Arctic weather. Elsewhere, “Gold cLOUDEAD Skiez” replicates the ghoulish light of a weak sun reflecting off an ice patch.
Guest vocalists appear on only two of the sculptures chiseled by the Anticon co-founder. On “Indiiggo,” Therese Workman’s voice is chopped and pitch-shifted in ethereal fashion: the word “understanding” is looped over and over until one finally gets it. “Crimson Across It” brings a welcome reunion with Doseone, who sneers about “capitalist trash” while unleashing savage witch doctor incantations.
Pitch Black Prism is a stunning follow-up to 2011’s Fever Dream, which Pitchfork called “very satisfying” and hailed for its “thick grooves” and “understated but staying melodies.” 2008’s Resurgam won similar raves, with the A.V. Club citing his “impeccable ear for rhythm” and “pretty crystalline sprawl.”