Kingston / Toronto artist Alex Gage is involved in many musical projects, from rock to classical, and has extensively studied music at York University. But it’s in his solo project, Alex Gage’s Flagship, where he truly shines and shows off his musicianship, with the help of a revolving door of guest musicians. After receiving a favorable grade from Bucketlist in 2018 for his EP Lifeboat, Gage returns with his full-length debut BROADSIDE!
The album opens with a rolling drum beat on “Masterwerk March” as Gage bends notes high on the fretboard of his electric guitar. We only begin to hear Gage sing on the second track “Before Our History Dies,” his voice full of emotion and on the verge of cracking, yet never does. The album features five tracks each named “Albatross.” The first four parts have the same muffled drum tone and clock in at less than two minutes. “Albatross v” stands out from the rest, as it has no percussion, and is well over three minutes. “Finding the Meaning” has several spoken word recordings layered on top of each other, with light guitar plucking played under it. Throughout, Gage noodles around on the guitar and piano, playing around with different tones and effects, while the bass and drums maintain a steady jazzy beat.
It isn’t until the second to last track “Turn Out The Lights” that things get really weird; the first half of the ten-minute song is very Floydian, but then becomes a chaotic cacophony at the five-minute mark. Gage kicks in with distortion to go with the nightmare-ish, high-pitched vocals, winding back down to a mellow vibe after a minute or two, and closing the album with a classical piano piece on “It’s All Overture!” I would have liked to hear more of that eerie element. I believe experimental music should make the listener uncomfortable and throw them off when they least expect it.
I found it difficult to be really engaged with Gage’s music, though I can appreciate his talent. Listening to this album, I felt the need to lie down on my couch, close my eyes, and not necessarily nap, but slip into a deep meditative state, with the music playing as background noise. It certainly transports you to a different realm.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*Edited by Dominic Abate