Pitchfork (Website) - "ALPHA jettisons the wilder stuff for a sleek, toned-down, crisper affair."
Alpha is only the second proper full-length by Audion, the pseudonym Matthew Dear has reserved for his harder-edged, club-focused techno tracks since 2004. He's released an enormous amount of Audion singles since then, with some of them appearing on the 2005 full-length Suckfish and many more ending up on the 2013 digital-only compilation Audion X. Alpha doesn't recycle any previously released tracks, and it appears on !K7 rather than Ghostly International's sublabel Spectral Sound, which has issued most of Audion's releases. The majority of Alpha's tracks (excepting a couple of brief interludes) are business as usual; that is to say, propulsive dance tracks engineered to shape the peaks and valleys of a DJ's set. While the mid-oughts Audion sound seemed highly influenced by the sleazy side of Chicago house, with unprintable song titles and acid synths, Alpha seems a bit closer to German minimal techno, particularly Kompakt staples like Wolfgang Voigt and Michael Mayer. This certainly is no coincidence, as Audion has remixed Kompakt artists such as DJ Koze and Robag Wruhme in the past, and the label released his 2014 single "Dem Howl" (which was actually the poppiest track he'd released under the moniker, and in a much different way than the songs Dear records under his own name). Dear's deep, acquired-taste vocals do appear on some of these tracks, but instead of singing proper lyrics, they generally just provide tones to be sampled and looped in the mix. A few tracks have slightly paranoid-sounding melodies that build up into the appropriate moments for going crazy on the dancefloor. Cuts like "Destroyer" feature big, choppy up-and-down laser sounds that seem primed for any dance festival you care to name. A few other tracks like "Zunk Synth" manage to turn flat, discordant synth noises into hooks; Dear seems excited by what he can get away with in terms of throwing weird sounds into the mix while still igniting the crowd. Other tracks such as "Suppa" are a little more restrained and suspenseful. The album-ending "Sicko" is a little slower and dirtier, with a wispy, ascending melody providing a soft counterpoint to the grinding bass synth. The album retains Dear's personality while dutifully serving its function. ~ Paul Simpson