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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

UK Duo ALASKALASKA To Perform At SXSW + L.A. In Support Of New Album 'Still Life '

ALASKALASKA (pronounced “Alaska-laska”) announce they will play live in America at SXSW (March 13-19th) and in Los Angeles, in honour of their album Still Life which is out via Marathon Records (Lava La Rue, Courtney Barnett, Pond etc).

The American shows details tba shortly, come after having supported Porridge Radio on a 13-date UK tour. Still Life finds writers and producers Lucinda Duarte-Holman and Fraser Rieley embracing more free-form electronica while exploring the privileges associated with modern domestic existence and the pressures that come with technology, social media and climate change.

The celebrated album Still Life features singles "TV Dinners", "Still Life", “Glass” and "Growing Up Pains (Unni's Song)" and drew support from KCRW, BBC 6 Music's Lauren Laverne, Chris Hawkins and Tom Ravenscroft, BBC Radio 1's Jack Saunders and Nels Hylton, BBC Introducing's Jess Iszatt and more. Produced by Jas Shaw (of Simian Mobile Disco), the album is full of digital sounds, drum machine and synth melodies cunningly sat beside rich, organic, acoustic instrumentation–a looping tug of war between existential dread and everyday simple pleasures.

The last few years have seen the band–who rose up in parallel with both the South London jazz scene and the post-punk movement of Brixton Windmill before going on to open up for acts like Tame Impala, Nilüfer Yanya and Hot Chip–navigate new ways of working. While Still Life was never intended to be a "pandemic album", it was ultimately realised and enhanced by this moment in time. Coincidentally, Duarte-Holman was already thinking about our habitual nature as a society and questioning what that means for us moving forward while doing the bulk of the writing, in its skeletal form at least, back in 2019. These themes were then exacerbated and further crystalised with the onset of the pandemic, a time that also meant ALASKALASKA were unable to get their regular supporting band in the same room, resulting in Duarte-Holman and Rieley embarking on a 24/7 endless stream of noise, soundscape, and consciousness that, like it or loathe it, only the 21st century 6G world can facilitate.

The limitations of that time allowed them to explore sounds they'd never quite had the freedom to play with, resulting in the band adventuring into more electronic soundscapes, creating a unique and infectious bed of indie-electronica in which their deeply reflective lyrics sit. Influences shine through both in a fluid exploration of genre and a tender, always-focused lyricism – it’s the methods of Björk, Fever Ray, LCD Soundsystem and Arthur Russell, and the contemporary melodies of Metronomy and Porches that excite them.

Four seasons of dawn chorus, panoramically framed by fruit trees and more analog synths than can comfortably fit in a cow shed-come-recording studio...the scene is set for the recording of ALASKALASKA’s second album Still Life. Ordinarily located in South East London, writers and producers Fraser Rieley and Lucinda Duarte-Holman were eager to get out of the city. Taking advantage of this rustic countryside scene, they were able to capture something uniquely their own.

Following their debut album in 2019, they resurface into a new era embracing all the things that first put the band on the map, attracting the likes of Tame Impala, Hot Chip, Porches and Nilüfer Yanya for tour support slots. For Rieley and Duarte-Holman, writing began in 2019, pre-lockdown-era, although the subsequent alone together/together alone time added a new spin on ALASKALASKA's process of experimentation and fine-tuning. The band now push their foundational ideas further and explore the freedom of playing with new sounds. Duarte-Holman explains, “...with everything going on at the time, the restrictions led us to try working in a new way. The limitations were different, but meant we were able to adventure into a more electronic soundscape that we're really looking forward to expressing live."

Production on Still Life kick-started in August 2021 with producer and musician Jas Shaw (of Simian Mobile Disco), nestled in the idyllic Kentish countryside, opposing the somewhat grimier setting the album was written in. This collaboration, added to their ideas and maturing musical sensibilities, allowed the record to bloom into a beautiful, hard-to-describe thing that embraces a more free-form electronica. It also finds lyricist Duarte-Holman at her most contemplative,"... touching on themes of the beautifully mundane and the privilege of being able to recognise those things.” That is what a Still Life often depicts, explains Duarte-Holman, “ can be a celebration of material pleasures or a warning of the ephemerality or overconsumption of these things - and of the impermanence of human life." If there's one thing the pandemic taught us, it's not to take anything for granted.

Lyrics are as wide-reaching as the sonic textures – “Growing Up Pains (Unni's song)”, written for Duarte-Holman’s close friend’s newborn, considers how it might feel to bring a child into today's world. "Look at you now, in a space age... earthquake, heartbreak, growing up pains..." depicts our intrinsic demand for interconnectivity at any cost, and our desensitisation to the bigger issues, like a looming climate emergency. The title track delves into the irony of connecting to each other through screens, though being largely used for our own vanity, distraction, or surveillance. There’s a gnawing frustration with the status quo of working life on “Glass” and a longing for the past on the aching “Simple”. Duarte-Holman describes “TV Dinners” as a stream of consciousness poem; the only track written during the first UK lockdown, and “the Eureka! moment in terms of threading Still Life together."

What matters most for ALASKALASKA is painting a sonic picture, making music that’s visceral. Something you can feel on your skin. The buzz of a bass. The shiver of a synth. Duarte-Holman describes the writing process as trying to musically realise a visual concept, such as the warm ultrasonic throbbing synth patterns in ‘Growing Up Pains’ to depict sounds inside a womb. “I describe a sound which may not be very obvious to anyone else, but luckily Fraser understands my language... then once a song is out in the world it can be whatever the audience takes it to be.”

Where their first full-length outing was a maximalist pop record, this sophomore release was more about removing the unnecessary and freeing oneself from stereotypical pop constructs. Saxophone graces us with welcome reappearances on tracks “Get Me High” and “Pressure”, albeit in a more reflective context, from session player and long-time friend, Will Rathbone. Keeping a fondness for their traditionally radio-friendly earlier tracks made with a live band, Rieley describes: “Still Life is big at times, but stays unconventional and very satisfying to me... we steered away slightly from anything too big or catchy.”

Following the album’s release, Rieley and Duarte-Holman plan to tap into their new interests and musical flexibility with their live shows: arranging the album with their full band, or an even larger formation, or perhaps playing more minimally together as a pair. Whatever the setup on stage, this new album finds ALASKALASKA in their most dynamic, boundless era yet. Primed to take Still Life beyond the studio, they're excited to share it with the world.


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