Alpha Strategy’s second album Drink the Brine, Get Scarce debuted earlier this month as a follow up to their first self-titled album. Drink the Brine, Get Scarce is the epitome of experimental, and while that can mean pretty much anything and everything when it comes to music, here it seems to be the best descriptor for this Toronto band’s ability to meld a wide array of influences. Recorded by Steve Albini at Electric Audio in Chicago, the album features lyricist, vocalist, and occasional guitarist Rory Hinchey, guitarist James McAdams, bassist Ben O’Brien, and drummer Evan Sidawi.
It is a bit difficult to judge something that is experimental by its very nature. However, Drink the Brine, Get Scarce undoubtedly contains elements of desert rock, punk, metal, and classic, boundary-testing avant-garde music. The first track “All the Rest” reminds me of Thurston Moore’s band Chelsea Light Moving; it has upbeat, not overly complicated punk guitar riffs, drums to match, prominent bass, and vocals that are half-wail, half-scream layered over top. Various breakdowns are spread throughout “All the Rest” and the following tracks, which make an already unpredictable song structure even more refreshing, if that is the kind of thing you’re into.
Tracks like “Fields,” “I Can Read,” and “Our Love” are where Hinchey really channels the drawn-out and hoarse vocals of musician John Frusciante during his darker, drug-ridden days of the mid-90s. This could be said of any of the tracks, as the main consistency on the album is the harrowing sentiment that Hinchey manages to bend into a heavier rock sound. While his wailing doesn’t transport you to quite the same place as Frusciante did on his brilliantly bizarre albums like Smile From The Streets You Hold, Hinchey evokes the same sheer emotionality of that era without falling into the heroin addiction Frusciante did. This is an extremely dangerous musical realm to work in, since it can go horribly wrong, yet Alpha Strategy seems to have tapped into and harnessed this vein (no pun intended) and for me, it works wonders.
The last track “Our Love” is a slightly more drawn-out version of the same style from the rest of the album. While most of the songs are quite short, each individual track manages to contain something beautifully unique, however small. One of the greatest strengths of Drink The Brine, Get Scarce is the fact that you could listen to it over and over again (as I found myself doing), focusing specifically on just Hinchey’s vocals, or Sidawi’s drumming that creates a rhythmic canvas for McAdams and O’Brien to decorate.
Drink the Brine, Get Scarce may seem to be a bit “all over the place” to the superficial listener, but the more you listen, the more Alpha Strategy’s sound emerges. You get the sense that these guys could pick up any one of their influences and make an entirely different sounding record that would be equally as brilliant.
For those in Toronto, I highly recommend you catch them at The Smiling Buddha on April 9th.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson