My Own Private Alaska


Written by: TL on 18/03/2010 16:45:57

About a week ago, I reached a disc in my pile that I've been spinning since then, trying to wrap my head around its strange concept. That record is "Amen", the début LP by French three piece My Own Private Alaska.

The strangeness of the concept is a direct result of the individual contribution each of MOPA's musicians bring to the soundscape. One plays classic piano. One plays drums. One screams with marauding intensity and whispers spoken word passages with much bitterness and malice, very similarly to your average Swedish screamo frontman.

Now imagine that, screamo - or more accurately, skramz - with piano and drums as the only instruments. Sounds fascinating? That's what I thought, but after a handful of listens, I have to admit that fascination is not the feeling I am left with after the eleven tracks on this album have run their course. In fact, since my first listen I have only slowly been able to drag myself away from an initial reaction of wanting to stop the record and listen to something else, only halfway through it.

You see.. This is just not working in my ears. Music with screams and growls as main vocals at least seems to me to require instrumentals that are energetic, abrupt and abrasive. Now while the drumming here can indeed be called abrasive, the fluent nature of the classic piano is in direct conflict with the rawness of the vocals, and I have failed to discover how the two compliment each other at all. In fact, the only moments in which my mind latches on to MOPA's music, is when the vocals create dynamics themselves, raising from whispers to screams, or changing pitch in otherwise repeated passages. It annoys me, because I can of course hear that the piano-playing isn't exactly for newbies, but to me, the way it works with the screamed vocals, is comparable to playing death metal, with vocals all whispered in falsetto. Some might call it breaking with convention. I just call it a poor fit. To illustrate (and exaggerate, for your entertainment) this point, imagine the vocals of Darkest Hour's "Doomsayer" replaced with me and my fantastic falsetto.

Boy, I do hope those boys in MOPA can take a little joke.. But regardless, I admit, that if I try to look past my problems with the whole concept of this record, there are moments in songs like "Broken Army", "Amen" and "Kill Me Twice", that I think showcase how the band actually have some ideas that could become good in songs, if they would travel outside of the confines of their concept. However, as it stands, I must admit, that the most memorable song on the album is their cover of Nirvana's "My Girl" - despite the fact that I think they murdered the song. In the end I respect MOPA's courage to walk beyond the beaten path and present us with an experiment, but as far as I'm concerned, I can't call it a very successful one yet, as I think it will only appeal to a very small niche. For experimental/skramz enthusiasts only:

Download: Broken Army, Amen, Kill Me Twice,
For The Fans Of: the idea of experimental piano skramz

Release Date 01.03.2010

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