Album released today via Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords. Watch the video for ‘Faito’ below.
Regarding The Auguries is the portentously-titled fourth album from Philadelphia electronic unit Alka. It is an album that reflects back our myriad concerns about the world; a teeming, restless work surveying global civil unrest, freak earthly phenomena and a sense that order is slowly being dismantled around us. Although it was recorded long before lockdown, its grim outlook makes it a fitting release during the grip of an existential crisis that has impacted us all.
After being a solo project of Bryan Michael since the early 2000s, for Regarding The Auguries Alka is re-imagined as a unit of Bryan Michael, visual artist Erika Tele and fellow Philadelphia electronic musician Todd Steponick, a line-up familiar from their recent, pre-lockdown shows.
The eleven tracks on the album were written in what Bryan describes as “slow motion” – he would start an idea; Todd would respond to it; Erika would add her distinctive vocals, which would then be woven through the track like another instrument. A track might then be disassembled, deconstructed and rebuilt, or its atomised components could end up as the basis for another track completely. What emerged from this evolving, morphing, shapeshifting sonic conversation is a body of work that could not have existed without the interplay between the unit’s three members.
From the outset, Alka wanted to make this an album encompassing human reactions to the times we live in. Fear, dread and unknowable mysteries might dominate its sonic architecture, but here we also find personal emotion and vulnerability on the tender ‘My Heart’, led by a delicate, emotive vocal from Erika, or a sense of being dismayed by an inability to decipher the fact from fiction on ‘Doubt’.
Here we also can identify with the feeling of life’s certainties unravelling around us on the album’s gradually-evolving opener ‘Fractured Time’. The bold, robust ‘Faito’ deploys a Japanese word used to inspire confidence and encouragement, while ‘Scrapple’ finds Erika’s vocal positioned with shouty insistence on a spiky electro track inspired by the gilets jaunes riots in Paris.
Throughout the album, we hear melodies that glitch and splinter into strange, unpredictable shapes. We hear sharp edits and off-kilter time signatures, horror movie samples and brief gospel interjections; on the widescreen ‘Earth Crisis’ we hear a chilling sample of unexplained natural atmospherics that sound like the earth foretelling of its impending final moments.
“An augury is like fortune telling that comes from looking at the patterns of bird flight,” explains Bryan of the album’s title. “Those patterns usually prophecy some sort of doom. I’d come up with the title a long time ago, but when we were working on the album, it seemed to become more and more connected to the world around us. In the end, it feels like it’s become a very timely album.”
More timely it could not be. Regarding The Auguries is a dark, contemplative electronic album made by three human beings staring fixedly at our suddenly uncertain futures.
Regarding The Auguries will be released as a limited-edition CD, download and stream through VeryRecords on 9th October 2020. veryrecords.com
1. Fractured Time
4. Earth Crisis
7. My Heart
10. Dead Like Me
11. King Card
12. Solfège (Fujiya & Miyagi Remix)
13. Faito (Vince Clarke Remix)
14. Fractured Time (DJ Jekyll of Shelter Remix)
Bryan Michael – synths, programming, vocoder, worry
Erika Tele – vocals, werds, projections, fear
Todd Steponick – synths, programming, treatments, doubt
Vince Clarke – additional synths and programming on ‘King Card’
Elizabeth Joan Kelly – guest vocals on ‘King Card’
Starkey – mastering
Bryan Michael started operating under the name Alka in 2000, tapping into the local IDM scene that centred around the city’s Broketronica experimental electronic music club night. With Principles Of Suffocation (2007) and A Dog Lost In The Woods (2009), he subtly railed against IDM’s restrictive covenants, offering a brooding, almost foreboding strand of electronic music. 2017’s The Colour Of Terrible Crystal was released through Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords, and found Bryan fusing together moments of broken electro beats and sparkling melodies, supported by stunning visual contributions from artist Erika Tele and sonic interventions from fellow Philadelphia electronic musician Todd Steponick. Alka is now a trio of Bryan, Erika and Todd.
VeryRecords was founded in Brooklyn by Erasure’s Vince Clarke in 2016. We are a small record label dedicated to releasing very fine electronic music. The label was launched with ‘2 Square’ by Vince Clarke and Paul Hartnoll, which was then followed by releases from Reed & Caroline, Alka and Brook.
“Shaping up as a label to keep a serious ear on.” – Electronic Sound
(c) 2020 VeryRecords. Press release text by Mat Smith for VeryRecords – firstname.lastname@example.org