Grice Peters is a London-based multi-instrumentalist and art rock singer-songwriter who has built himself quite a reputation in left-field pop circles since the 2012 release of his consummate alt-pop debut album Propeller. It helped that he was assisted by a long list of well known collaborators, including Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri, Steve Bingham, 05Ric, and BJ Cole, all of whom also appear on this follow-up album, Alexandrine.
With a cast list like that, it is unsurprising to find a modernistic art rock electronica vibe running through these compositions, a combination of heady if restrained instrumental passages and ethereal-romantic lyrics, a prime example being the slinky opening and title track. “I fell in through the back door of your wildest dreams” croons Grice, mining a similarly emotionally wracked seam to that dug by Tim Bowness, but perhaps not quite as bleak, and in a slightly higher register to boot.
Given than Steve Jansen has a hand in the mixing, and adds “additional treatments & tonalities”, and his ex-bandmate Richard Barbieri co-produces and adds arrangements to some tracks, inevitable comparisons to Japan are bound to be made. On Eclipse this is unavoidable, but the strength of the song and its modernistic approach lends it and the album their own individuality. Comparisons, while no doubt annoying for the artist are useful for the uninitiated, as I’m sure some of you reading this are, as I was myself until hitting “Play”. 05ric’s insistent drumming on Eclipse gives the song an added layer of urgency serving to make it one of the album highlights.
A highly unusual guitar break snakes around Leftside, which is something of a post-rock torchsong, and quite delightful. Synth string sections appear elsewhere, and with jungle rhythms and funky bass lines making appearances, the result is never a dull moment for the listener. 12 Syllables is a fracture of a song that points at the arthouse cinema, and the “Flaws” running through the album get ever more rarefied, creating a suitably mysterious atmosphere, only to pull it all back with the concluding Flaw 3 (Fractal) which sees the ubiquitous BJ Cole do his sublime thing with the pedal steel, accompanied by minimal keyboards and treatments. It is absolutely lovely.
Another highlight is Incomplete, containing as it does an absorbing example of the interesting rhythms shot through this record. Not only that but it morphs into a post-rock song with chunky chords and plenty of rock energy, before breaking down on the back of a gorgeous trumpet break by Luca Calabrese, who is something of a star on this record. After this we cross the bridge and saunter home on the chorus riff. Very nice indeed! Following this is the longest track on the album, and at nearly 10 minutes Frozen Water takes its time to lure us in, with keening trumpet and synth washes introducing this gentle trip across the ice. Grice enters with his song after a while, and we find him at his most reflective.
Alexandrine is an album of well executed art pop, at complete ease with itself, and therefore benefits from having nothing to prove. Highly recommended.
01. Alexandrine (7:16)
02. She’s In My Garden (3:45)
03. Eclipse (6:25)
04. Flaw 1 (Fracture) (0:58)
05. Leftside (3:59)
06. The Magic Of Changing Colours (2:15)
07. 12 Syllables (5:55)
08. Flaw 2 (Silica) (2:52)
09. Incomplete (6:05)
10. Frozen Water (9:40)
11. Clear, Conscious & Free (4:30)
12. Flaw 3 (Fractal) (3:44)
Total time – 57:30
Grice – Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Keys, Ebow, Tzouras, Treatments, Tonalities, Percussion
Richard Barbieri – Keyboards, Synthesisers, Tonalities
Steve Jansen – Additional Drums, Percussion, Tonalities
Hossam Ramzy – Percussion, Triangle, Riq, Duff, Egyptian Tabla
Luca Calabrese – Freeform Trumpet
B J Cole – Pedal Steel Guitar
Al Swainger – Bass, Double Bass, French Horn, Pedals
05Ric – Drums
Suzanne Barbieri – Vocals
Matt Calder – Hang Drums
Steve Bingham – Viola, Violin
Maria K. Peters – Spoken Word
Joe Breban – Drums
Record Label: Hungersleep Records
Year Of Release: 2015