By Rick Shithouse
Certain manifestations of 80s sounds re-envisaged today can genuinely encapsulate a distinct time period and in Alpha Boy's new record we get to experience the late 80s/early 90s action movie soundtrack done in a thoroughly authentic manner. Though much of Alpha Boys music centres around soundtrack styles of the mid 80s in his back catalogue there is a distinction in this release that takes his music forward in time and forward as a producer.
With movies like the Lethal Weapon series, Dark Angel, Tango And Cash, Die Hard's 1 & 2, Action Jackson, Hard To Kill, Black Rain, Showdown In Little Tokyo and many others from this era there was was a tone set in the soundtracks that played off the on screen action beautifully. This was the real high water mark period for the classic action cop movie that came to being int mid 80s and evolved into masterpieces like the above aforementioned titles before everything changed later in the 90s. Those movies that refused to modernise and stuck to the always delicious 80s recipes have become final epitaphs of 80s cinema and gain a whole new importance in regards to their soundtracks today.
In his Hollywood album Alpha Boy works his synth magic in ways that conjure up selected scenes, highlight reels if you will, of some of the most arse kickingest cinema ever made. Alpha Boy's inherent fascination to 80s soundtrack works in general has always meant his revised experience is authentic and full of on-bended-knee honest homage. With this record we're taken into a myriad of instantly recognisable sets of circumstances and feel the tension, excitement and atmosphere first hand.
After a short intro that sets a great little Library-esque news report tone we're whisked downtown to the first action sequence: 'The Heat Is On'. You can cut the tension with a knife, waves of heat distort the city skyline and the battle between a world worn, battle hardened cop going up against a madman threatening to take the city down piece by piece begins. Slow moving pans, saturated oranges and reds, a city exhausted by a record heatwave, it's all scripted to perfection.
The opener is very strong and this continues it the Asiatic tinged follow up 'Big Trouble In Little Chinatown'. The late 80s and early 90s cop action movies really stereotyped Asian characters as inhumane triad or yakuza gangs, threatening to take over the U.S from their strongholds in Chinatown all the way to the Whitehouse and this track illustrates a dark, seamy underside, hiding in the shadowy corners, away from the din of the street, where deals are made and lives are traded like mahjonng tiles.
Alpha Boy's taken a great approach to numerous tracks on the record and kept them to short, sharp experiences that illuminate just enough of a scene to move the story along but don't lay all their cards out on the table. 'Shy' and 'Surveillance' do a wonderful job of developing the sounds and characters in a break from the more intense action.
Following these shorter tales is one of my personal favourite tracks on the record, which proves to be a hugely successful departure from the Alpha Boy we're accustomed to. 'News Report' gets rockin on a funky vibe that switches into a high energy newjack swing soundtrack piece. It's a spectacular mix of sounds and styles and sax just knocks it up to another level. One of Alpha Boy's real stand out tracks, that's for sure.
'Lo Pan' keeps things chill and and fills in some more back story in a great little cameo appearance before the action heads to the beauties and beasts of 'Sunset Strip'. The colours begin to saturate again and heat becomes stifling as the melodies sparkle with sunshine fuelled energy. A very noticeable part of Alpha Boys armoury that has been elevated immensely in this release is the drum tracks. All the percussion tracks feel 'live' and bright with a great snap and punch to snares especially, 'Sunset Strip' displays this throughout every second.
The gangs of the city come out in force, brandishing their colours with the streetwise title track of the record. The action is electric and the orchestral stabs are vicious as the line between law and anarchy become blurred beyond recognition. In the final track, 'Dents Oilfield', the final action set piece plays out against a vastly atmospheric but sparsely populated synthscape that is absolutely captivating. The tone of every instrument is tuned to perfection and you'll be on the edge of your seat until the credits roll.
Alpha Boy's version of Hollywood is an instant blockbuster and creates an experience that is as rare as it is entertaining. The tight focus and beautifully rich polish applied to every track makes this production move along at a fantastically frantic pace and you'll be hard pressed just to keep up with all the action Alpha Boys aurally illustrates. It's a testament to this producer's passion and creativity in how authentic his music is and how hard it rocks.
The Hollywood album is presented on Alpha Boy's Bandcamp page here and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.