“….far-flung variety of forms into chilly, beat-oriented, downtempo hymns: amorous Balkan strings, the melismatic vocal tapestries of classical Arabian music (often so gently vocoder-kissed as to sound more spectral than robotic), icily splintered piano loops (which are actually played live), skittering hip-hop percussion (ditto), and soaringly simple indie pop melodies obscured in an atmospheric haze.”
“Sounds like: Ratatat meets robotic Balkan natives.
|Alaska In Winter began when art student, Brandon Bethancourt spent a semester writing and recording music in an isolated cabin on the south coast of Alaska. Upon arrival back in New Mexico, he teamed up with Zach Condon of Beirut, Heather Trost of A Hawk And A Hacksaw and other friends, and thus began work on the album Dance Party In The Balkans. This debut release was released by Milan Records in July 2007 in the US after a release in the UK by Regular Beat a few months earlier.
After his critically acclaimed debut release, Bethancourt decided to quit his job, move out of his house and relocate to Berlin, Germany – a city he had been to before and had always dreamed of living in. He has spent the past 6 months writing and recording this upcoming release Holiday and begins his tour of Europe in late September. Holiday will be released on Milan Records on November 18, 2008.
Bethancourt takes much of his influence from his early years of growing up in the American South West, immersed in the musical low-rider culture of Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as a slight Arabian influence on the part of his parents and their Byzantine church music. He combines these traditional sounds with programmed beats and use of the vocoder among other new technologies and techniques.
Because Bethancourt is the sole member of Alaska in Winter and does not read or write music, he uses multi-track recording to build his musical layers, using a variety of techniques. “For Holiday, I recorded everything in my living room on a laptop and an old micro cassette tape recorder and used a German ghetto blaster as my monitor speakers. The only things I brought with me to Europe were my Powerbook laptop, an effects processor, a small midi keyboard, a microphone, and the hand held micro cassette tape recorder,” he explains. “Because I didn’t actually have any instruments with me (aside from the elements I recorded before I came to Europe), the album turned out very electronic, very synthy as those were the only tools I had.”
In comparing how Holiday differs from Dance Party in the Balkans, Bethancourt explains, “I’ve definitely been influenced by Berlin on this album – much more electronic than the last, heavily based on synths, bass, and dancier drums and with hints of minimal house elements creeping in ever so slightly. Even within the album itself I can hear a progression of the Berlin electronic music scene influencing me more and more with the amount of time I spent here. The Berlin techno parties and all night dance marathons were big inspirations for me.
Quotes and Quotes:
“There is not one bad track on this album.”
“What do you get if you cross the Balkan folk of Beirut and A Hawk and a Hacksaw with the 80s disco reverie of the Junior Boys? Well, Alaska in Winter managed to find out when they recruited a certain Zach Condon and Heather Trost from Beirut to play on his record, which does exactly what it claims to – soundtracks a dance party in the Balkans.”
“A pleasant diversion and a brand new (mind) dance that may just grow on you. ”
Culture Warrior (US)
“One of the best album titles of the year.”
Fat and Confused (UK)
“Alaska in the Winter have created what may be the most original and ambitious pop album of the year.”
N/A Magazine (US)
“This works as a very good introduction to a new artist and possibly a new genre(?). ”
November and December U.S. tour dates are being firmed up for Alaska in Winter.
European Tour Dates:
Sept 25 – Rust, Copenhagen, Denmark
Sept 26 – Musikcaféen, Arhus, Denmark
Sept 27 – Klubb Republik, Norrkoping, Sweden
Sept 30 – Astra Stube, Hamburg, Germany
Oct 1 – Prinsenhof, Groningen, The Netherlands
Oct 2 – Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Oct 4 – Ekko, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Oct 5 – Rotown, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Oct 7 – Nijdrop, Opwijk, Belgium
Oct 9 – Feinkost Lampe, Hannover, Germany
Oct 11 – The Kings Arms, Salford, UK
Oct 24 – 93 Feet East, London, UK
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