Out Of Orbit


Alphanaut / MAD Music, 2010


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Alphanaut (a.k.a. Mark Alan) is no Tears For Fears. However, he is definitely a thinking man’s pop musician. His debut Out Of Orbit might be flavored generously with ‘80s synth-pop grooves, but it is definitely not a frivolous record. As a matter of fact, apart from the first three tracks on Orbit, which cover all the necessary requirements for a radio-friendly track with their cheery tempos, the rest of the album is a mellow and relaxed psychedelic trip for the pondering.

With Orbit’s overall unflinchingly ‘80s appeal, there is no denying that it is borne out of an undeniable love for synth-pop. But merely putting Orbit in the synth-pop rubric is too simplistic for a record that brings into harmony a diverse range of sounds and styles that transcend what is commonly perceived of this genre. Amid its synth-pop backdrop, “Satellites Crashing,” for instance, starts off with a dreamy trumpet piece that lasts for the length of the track, marrying seamlessly with some upright bass and laidback whispering drums, and makes it more of a jazzy downtempo piece. But then the track’s female spoken words, which brim with ‘80s kitsch, bring it to an unclassifiable middle ground.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Orbit’s psychedelic bone is one that is recognizable. This sort of “Pink Floyd” sound, with lazy and dreamy guitars, is a big part of this record. Complimenting the atmospheric keyboards, these guitar arrangements also make the music more heterogeneous and richer, not to mention real. With the appetite of a concept record, Orbit is moody. But the album doesn’t become overly intense or self-indulgent with pointless long numbers or needless fillers. It does have slow ambient pieces like “AL 424-15” and “Night Blind” that cross this path, but they end before they start getting boring.

But there is also a side – although small but significant – to Orbit that is happily a product of the NewWave movement, and tracks like “Timid Creatures,” “Safe And White,” and “Never Been To Athens” have the ‘80s danceability of a Duran Duran track. But whether they have the same timeless appeal is highly questionable. Of all the vestiges of the ‘80s era on this record, it is Alan’s vocals that are saddled with the most awkwardness. His overly throaty singing, which bears resemblance to The The’s Matt Johnson and Human League’s Philip Oakey, often sounds too choked up when he tries squeezing too many words together in one breath, thus sounding blunderingly onerous.

Alan, along with his guitar player Ted Scarlett, has done a commendable job at producing this record. However, its rich musical body lacks sophistication – a crisp sound – which might go unnoticed or even complement raw guitar-based music, but for an album of such complexity is absolutely paramount. One can get used to the vocal gaffes, but the need for better production work on this record is harder to avoid. Alphanaut is definitely no Tears For Fears.

Rating: B+

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© 2010 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alphanaut / MAD Music, and is used for informational purposes only.