If Ireland’s Alarmist isn’t on your radar yet, it might be time to check the equipment.
Their debut LP, Popular Demain has arrived, and I’m here to report, friends, that it is glorious. Right out of the gate it roars to life with the track ‘Petrichor,’ which, at first I almost mistook for a lost Battles track. Very quickly, it comes into its own, putting disparate electronics together over some double percussion and thick guitar stabs that all coalesce into a dreamy soup of complex rhythm. This is something of a theme throughout Popular Demain -often there is so much happening at once, it’s easy to miss the intricacies. It’s a testament to Alarmist’s propensity for excellent songwriting that I never once felt overwhelmed or lost.
In fact, I find that I discover some new detail that was completely missed each time I listen. I get the impression that that will continue for months. And if I put this album down and pick it up again a year from now, I’m sure there will be new surprises.
No, Popular Demain is not the dissonant noise-fest you might expect from that kind of description. Every song is built around just a few melodic hooks, while the rest of the song swells and grows behind it. Often, it feels like orchestra composition, albeit played by just four people.
The album is sonically distinct from anything that came before it, but at the same time draws at one’s sense of nostalgia. Classic Korg sounds wander about over gentle jazzy rhythms (from two percussionists, I might add) and decidedly fresh-sounding synths that all combine to make you feel like you’ve stumbled on the soundtrack of some forgotten video game that dances vaguely at the peripheries of your childhood memories. Strong hooks and catchy rhythms are likely to be a welcoming point of entry for your non-math-minded friends, though not at the expense of meticulously crafted, ferociously deep songs.
Crafted is actually the best word for it. So rarely does an album feel so well-thought out and painstakingly necessary, as if no composition is incomplete, or any single accent out of place.
The best part about Popular Demain might just be how unique every part of it seems. Sure, it’s all unified by a similar overall sound design, but each track stands on its own two feet, completely distinct from everything around it. On my first listen, each time I thought I’d found a new favorite track, I’d discover another. The same happened when I listened a second time, and a third. Every song belongs and every song makes a case for its existence.
Ten years from now, we may just look upon Alarmist in the same way Prog-rock looks at King Crimson. Maybe that’s an exaggeration -but I defy any new listener not to reach a similar conclusion. Far be it from me to make outrageous forecasts, but mark my words: Popular Demain is going to be important.