AUN: Alpha Heaven
Denovali Records

Scant information adorns the stark, black-and-white sleeve of AUN's Alpha Heaven—track titles only are displayed on the back cover and band info is absent altogether. One's guess is that Martin Dumais (electric and bass guitars, acoustic and electric piano, venus organ, synths, electronic percussion, tapes, sampler) and Julie Leblanc (vocals, synths, piano, sampler) would rather their music speak for itself, and in that regard it certainly does strongly enough. Their sound offers an ultra-immersive plunge into wobbly ambient psychedelia and trippy sci-fi explorations, with the album's eleven tracks intent on drawing the listener into its hazy orbit for a mind-bending hour. Amazingly, most of it was recorded in one take and little post-editing was done apart from “some overdubbed vocals, lounge organ, and creaky acoustic piano parts.” It's a murky, retro-future result that, in its mix of sounds produced by vintage analog gear and modern-day electronic equipment, shares much with the synth-heavy sound of current off-the-radar cassette labels.

Blurry, pulsating settings of galaxial ambient such as “Koenig” and “Alpha” see AUN pushing beyond the space-time continuum and plunging headlong into cavernous deep space. At the album's halfway mark, a gentler side of AUN comes to the fore, starting with “La Luna,” a gauzy reverie ideal for easing an infant to sleep, and the even sweeter “Peacecalm.” Leblanc's vocalizing adds an ethereal dimension to “War is Near,” the pairing of her ghostly voice and the hazy instrumental design suggesting that AUN's music might appeal to fans of Grouper and Motion Sickness of Time Travel, among others. Leblanc's voice also is used to good effect on “Voyager” when her monotone chant, altered to resemble a semi-distorted android, oscillates between right and left channels. Rounding out the release are “Vulcan,” a shuddering kosmische exercise, and “Viva,” which changes things up by grounding AUN's haze with a beat pattern that nudges its sound away from ambient soundsculpting to atmospheric post-rock.

Certainly one of the most powerful tracks is the CD-only “Return to Jupiter,” which crowns the release with eleven phantasmagoric minutes of krautrock blaze and wave upon mind-melting wave of guitar-and-synth swirl. Here and elsewhere, the duo's strong follow-up to 2011's Phantom Ghost ranges broadly across its chosen terrain, with everything from sunblinded excursions and delicate lullabies dotting the horizon.

July 2013