maandag 18 mei 2015

Hawks. Alamo Race Track

Alamo Race Track is a band that is around for quite some time now. I'm almost certain I saw them once as a support act in the 00s, but it never broke in the way other Excelsior bands did or received attention and airplay. Perseverance is also a trait that gets bands further.

On Hawks the band has a different sound from what I remembered of some years back. Electronics have entered the sound and more than once I'm remembered of Alt-J, although the sound of Alamo Race Track is much more alive and the antithesis of introspection. I'm happy this is the case. There is one Alt-J in my life and that is enough for now.

Alamo Race Track, the place where the hippie generation was carried to its grave. All illusions smashed by Hell's Angels' baseball bats and worse. See it all in 'Gimme Shelter'. Quite a name for a band as it is sort of a name that has a lot of doom and gloom around it.

The band has its origins in the fact that Diederik Nomden, who featured on this blog recently under his nom de plume Royal Parks, left Redevider. The band members decided to continue under a new name and released its debut album in 2003, 'Birds At Home'. Digging deep I even found a copy in my possession, something I'd forgotten all about. The album was followed by 'Black Cat John Brown' (2006) and 'Unicorn Loves Deer' (2011). In the past years the band went through several personnel changes, but the two guitarists are at the helm still. Ralph Mulder sings and plays and Leonard Lucieer plays. Peter Akkerman is still on bass. The newer members Jaap Bossen on keyboards and guitar and drummer Robin Buijs are around for their second album with the band already.

Hawks is an alternative album. No song takes the easy way out. In that sense there are some connections to bands like Modest Mouse and Sparklehorse. Estranging elements are woven through the fabric of the songs, while at the same time there is a form of tenderness that compares with Amsterdam colleagues Maggie Brown. Beauty is not in plain sight on Hawks. In fact there is a layer of grime, dust and city dregs after a night of large masses on the streets. Music for night mayors and other nighthawks, just before they go to bed.

This impression does not leave me after further listening. I'm fascinated, but do I dare to go in? That is the main question Alamo Race Track poses to me. The start of the album startled me just a little. I thought I'd put on the wrong album and that I was listening to Stuurbaard Bakkebaard, in a slightly mellowed down, more sophisticated version. Things turned out alright any way. Although the rhythm could be De Kift also. The song turns into a Sparklehorse tune instead. 'Young Spruce and Wires' also has this film of hiss over it that was typical for Sparklehorse. A strong beginning of Hawks it is though. The clear guitar notes that come to the front of the mix every once in a while contrast in a great way with the murky singing and keyboard lead notes. A Jacob's Ladder, a ray of light through dark clouds.

Alamo Race Track manages a trick like this regularly on Hawks. Exactly that is the reason I'm so intrigued by its music. Hawks has so many layers that there's something to discover with each spin. The band may have a conventional sounding line up, passed that everything is possible. Heavy 80's synths in 'Everybody Let's Go' enter the whole, but it could be violins as well or disco high voiced ohs and ahs. Sometimes they get closer to label mates Moss, another band that does not let itself be captured easily. In other songs Alamo Race Track is as without compromise like Alt-J is ('It's Bad Luck'). It hovers on this thin, fine line, high up and stays up there so with ease or so it seems. Hawks becomes more impressive by the spin as more secrets are divulged.

Hawks is an album for listeners who dare to go on an adventure without a promise to come home, in one piece or at all, including no final destination. Alamo Race Track has released an album that deserves listening to and deserves to get a serious relationship with. Only then you will find all that is hidden within. Be it grime and dust, be it diamonds. Only time will tell. The trip will be worth it. In short: yes, I dared to move in and was surprised at every corner.


You can listen to 'Young Spruce and Wires' here:

or buy at

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