L to R: William Shaw IV, David King, James Diers, Jacob Hanson (photo credit: Cameron Wittig)

L to R: William Shaw IV, David King, James Diers, Jacob Hanson
(photo credit: Cameron Wittig)

 L to R: Jacob Hanson, David King, James Diers, William Shaw IV (photo credit: Cameron Wittig)

L to R: Jacob Hanson, David King, James Diers, William Shaw IV
(photo credit: Cameron Wittig)

HALLOWEEN, ALASKA
Le Centre

The first full album of original music from Halloween, Alaska since 2011 is neither young nor naive nor angry nor frustrated. It's the latest artifact from a veteran band whose persistent cult following and influence on indie-rock peers can be felt far beyond its native Minneapolis.

Le Centre is an audacious set from a group that was electronic with live instruments well before such things were standard.In fact, Halloween, Alaska feels more like a band than at any other point in their history, with founding members James Diers (voice/guitar/keys) and David King (drums/keys) . While synths that call to mind early Autechre undergird a song like “Defender,” it also features a frenetic, mosquito-esque guitar break. In places, they veer into a classic R&B or blue-eyed soul mode, as on “Long Views” with its Prince-inflected guitar solo, or on “Passport Pages,” which could almost be a lost Steely Dan B-side. And then there are the angular, propulsive, Krautrock rhythms reminiscent of The Notwist that define songs like “Ginger” or “Tons.”

Started in the early 2000s by a coterie of Twin Cities veterans in bands like The Bad Plus, 12 Rods, Love-cars, Happy Apple and others, Halloween, Alaska was always written in the margins, even as they quietly became one of the more durable Minnesota bands in recent memory. The lineup has fluctuated, with Jake Hanson joining on guitar while original members Ev Olcott (keyboards) and Matt Friesen (bass) departed. Midway through the work of following up 2011’s All Night the Calls Came In, life intervened in myriad ways and put things on hold. 

 

This constellation of reference points might imply a certain coldness or slickness, an archly intellectual mix of influences. Yet the album is anything but, instead revealing itself as warmly human through lyrics and themes that neither strive for earnestness nor dismiss it. As ever, Diers excels at lines and refrains that can be both self-deprecating and a little romantic (“Did a little research into how the sun sets” from “Temper”) or acerbic without seeming jaded. As a whole, it’s familiar but challenging, restless but inviting.

Halloween, Alaska started as a project, an outlet for an interest in electronic textures. But over the last decade and a half, it’s become something a little more than that. They’ve brushed up against something resembling success with tracks on The O.C., but even that feels like a nostalgia trip now. Instead of flaming out, Halloween, Alaska has adapted and endured. Le Centreis the sound of a band that knows itself, confident enough in each other to color outside the lines without sacrificing the bigger picture.

But

 

PRESS QUOTES

"[FOUR STARS]...Halloween, Alaska's emotive verve and electro-organic poise is so accomplished, you'd think you'd got your hands on The Blue Nile's mislaid comeback album." — MOJO

"You won’t find Halloween, Alaska, anywhere on a map. Instead, this Minnesota band inhabits a sensual, weightless world of sweetly brooding electronic pop ... with drummer David King (also of the Bad Plus) adding tastefully muted beats while James Diers’ abstract lyricism wraps you in a sleepy caress." —SPIN

"...like [TV On The Radio], this Midwestern quartet lays out moody guitar and keyboards bric-a-brac atop subtly quaking beats...soft, glassy drones, worried groove glitch, a sly come-on cribbed from an old Prince song." — BLENDER

"[FOUR STARS] ... carefully crafted atmosphere, with all extraneous nonsense removed...so carefully picked and programmed that you dwell on their texture in the same way that you'd run your finger over the grain in a piece of wood.... Mesmerising stuff." — SUNDAY TIMES (UK)

"A lot of bands claim not to fit any preexisting pop music genre, but few can back up such claims as convincingly as Minneapolis-based Halloween, Alaska...jittery-jungly and swooningly melodic...sonically large and weirdly cathartic...Highly recommended." — ALL MUSIC GUIDE

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