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Reverence and searching - 86%

gasmask_colostomy, December 2nd, 2019

I’m getting deeper into the work of Alpha Drone (aka one-man project of Johann Aegidius Ritter) and I’m finding more and more variety, which in turn leads to some discoveries of quality too. Out of all the different work put out under this name, I don’t think I had such an initially positive reaction as to this one, which is one of the few compositions I might refer to as a “song”. That’s because ‘A Cross of Stars’ provides a structure to its 7 minute duration, returning to a chorus riff that cooperates well with sung verses. For anyone who has paid attention to my other AD reviews, this may also be the first time I’ve referred to singing (as opposed to vocals, or just a voice), so it’s worth noting that the clean-sung verses come across like something from Pink Floyd that’s been beamed down to Earth through the static of space. The actual quality of the singing is slightly questionable, but it proves more than serviceable in such an atmospheric arrangement.

So, what exactly is that arrangement? As with much of AD’s material, I feel slightly submerged when listening to ‘A Cross of Stars’, something that the windy shivering of the main tremolo riff accentuates, as does the unsteadiness of the backing drones. The deepest element of the song is provided by a kind of jangling (bass?) guitar that may have once been used in ‘60s pop music; this continues while the song leaves its repeating structure later on to the clashes of vastly distorted cymbals, the guitar backing picking up to a crescendo before ending on a neat pitch shift in the buzzing drone, which eventually turns out to be an instrument that can produce feedback. As such, I’m quite hesitant to name any instrument specifically because of how much they have been distorted and transformed, though the set-up of the piece is as clear as any that I’ve heard from this project.

In the end, the reason I really like ‘A Cross of Stars’ is due to the synthesis of sounds produced and the clear direction of the song. While retaining the air of mystery that most of Alpha Drone’s work possesses, I feel a more definite kinship with the humanistic aura of reverence and searching that exudes from it. I wouldn’t like to slap a genre on it, though I’ll play this song again when I’m reading, writing, or contemplating. Good stuff.