On the 2018 self-titled debut from Poseidon’s Alley, Los Angeles-based composer Tim Herscovitch leads the listener through uncharted territories where Dream Theatre and Kavinsky meet. There is something warm and familiar here. I can’t help but feel a strange sense of nostalgia for a place or time I may very well have never been. I want to take a midnight ride, with blacked out windows, through a metropolis of the not too distant future or possibly some hypothetical past.
Touted as a one-man band, Poseidon’s Alley is a prodigious display where no instrument suffers, each sounding as though it has been wielded by a master. There should be little doubt that Herscovitch is smarter than you, and you can be certain he is a better guitar player than you. In spite of the virtuosic guitar work, Poseidon’s Alley shines brightest when the synthesizers are permitted to do the heavy lifting. Tracks like “Dappled Mare” and “Sundown 1985” charm as they do because of the dreamy synth textures that envelope the track. The ambient soundscapes wash over you, deceiving you into believing that you are listening to a straightforward piece, when in reality the opposite is true – the candy coating that sweetens the pill.
The absence of vocal melodies, if anything, serves to elevate the record rather than detracting from it. Without the restrictive requirement of a catchy vocal hook, the compositions are given full spotlight and blossom because of it. On the “The Pharmacist,” Poseidon’s Alley sounds like a slick, modern incarnation of Alan Parsons. Conversely, “Leo Carillo” plays like a soundtrack to a beachside race in Mario Kart. The musicianship on the track is, of course, incredible, but lacks the teeth to be called much more than muzak. This seems to be the catch-22 of an instrumental record. The freedom can on one hand lead to moments of brilliance, but that same freedom can also lead to tedious displays of technical proficiency.
While Poseidon’s Alley is very strong from the outset, its strength tragically becomes its weakness, inevitably appearing frontloaded, running out of steam about two-thirds of the way through. “Playa Hermosa” winds up feeling like a long, awkward elevator ride home from the party that “Sundown 1985” was holding on the seventh floor. “Escape to Golden Horn” makes a final rally in the closing minutes of the championship rounds, but it’s not quite enough to meet the high-water mark set earlier on.
By the time I reach the closing notes of Poseidon’s Alley, I can’t say I’m sure of the intention of the record – what it’s out to prove – but I have found resolution in the fact that it doesn’t really matter. It’s a creative, competent record that is in no way reductive. Herscovitch is clearly an intellect, and I can only assume he knows precisely what he intended to accomplish with Poseidon’s Alley. So, I’ll just sit back and let Poseidon’s waves wash over me.
Written by Cy Williams
*edited by Kate Erickson