Nine Black Alps: Sirens – album review

Nine Black Alps: Sirens (Brew Records)
LP/CD/DL
Out: 9th October 2012

Nine Black Alps return from their hiatus with a revised line-up, signs of a change in direction and a new album which our man @thisismusic has been listening too & really enjoying. As you’ll see if you read on.

“What happened to the Nine Black Alps?” seems to have been a familier conversation point for a while now. Three albums, intersperced with high profile support slots and then headline tours, the flight path was perfect and justified. Nine Black Alps were loud, dark, evolutionary and then vanished.

There was no cataclismic implosion, contact just stopped. There were rumours of a new album, new material, but with Martin Cohen leaving to form Milkmaid it wasn’t clear that the remaining band members could be arsed to revive the original band rather than put efforts into other areas. Lead Sam Forrest emerged with solo albums whilst David Jones could be spotted as a live session guitarist for The Cribs.

Except of course it’s only 7 years since they recieved “best new band” pluadits and the last album “Locked Out From The Inside” was only released in 2009. With the new album “Sirens” released on 9th October, that makes 4 albums in 8 years, not exactly S.A.W. production rates, borderline tardy at worse, but hardly unproductive. Three years between albums isn’t so much a coma or even hibernation, more like a decent kip.

The spiralling trajectory of the previous albums led into the darkness of Locked Out and whilst elements of this cold heart remain evident on Sirens, there has been a softening with pop sensibilities more evident on tracks like Away From Me, Penny Cinderella and My One And Only. In the past Nine Black Alps sounded like they were constantly looking over their shoulder, expecting to be hunted down by an unseen killer, that urgency as been replaceed on on Sirens with a fresher, more progressive tone.

On previous albums, Nine Black Alps felt loud no matter what volume you actually played them at, but on Sirens, this doesn’t happen. In some ways this is a shame, but it is necessary to create space for more inventive songs like the superb Phosphorescence and the gentle, fragile, Waiting Room. These tracks along with My One and Only work better than the darker songs such as Don’t Forget to Breathe and Find It My Own Way, the latter sitting in the more confident second half of the album.

Self produced albums tend to deliberately tear a band away from the estalished norm in search of themselves. The problem is that this can lead to the band falling into established formulaic styles of others. This happens to Nine Black Alps on Living In A Dream and Hand Me Down, good songs but ones you feel you have heard before.

Live, a keenness will become evident to more of the tracks on Sirens and alongside the back catalogue the collective effect is one of variety and a maturity that previously it would have been easy to assume Nine Black Alps were able to achieve.

For Nine Black Alps to continue without becoming a parody, the spiral into darkness needed to be corrected. Sirens achieves this change of direction and, if this is the start of a renewed output from Nine Black Alps, then it will stand as the pivotal point. However, if they withdraw to another long break, the efforts to move on will be wasted and the legacy of the earlier, harder albums will have been tainted.

Nine Black Alps will be touring in October, playing the following venues:

10th October ”“ King Tuts ”“ Glasgow
11th October ”“ Duchess ”“ York
13th October ”“ Bodega Social Club ”“ Nottingham
14th October ”“ Joiners ”“ Southampton
15th October ”“ Borderline ”“ London
16th October ”“ Green Door Store ”“ Brighton
17th October ”“ Clwb Ifor Bach ”“ Cardiff
18th October ”“ Thekla ”“ Bristol
19th October ”“ Ruby Lounge ”“ Manchester

NBA have a website, a Facebook account & are on Twitter. You can also grab a free single by the on their Bandcamp.

All words @thisismusic whose author profile can be found here. @thisismusic is also on twitter here.

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