Review: AUN - Alpha Heaven (2013)


aun_alphaheavenartist: AUN
release: Alpha Heaven
format: CD, LP
year of release: 2013
label: Den­ov­ali
dur­a­tion: 57:42

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

It’s been a few years since I got to know Cana­dian duo AUN (Julie Leb­lanc, Mar­tin Dumais) from their album Black Pyr­amid on Cyc­lic Law. Com­pared to that album, Alpha Heaven feels a bit less dense, with less focus on heavy drones, and more on open spaces, although both are still present. Like some pre­vi­ous works, Alpha Heaven seems to have some­thing of an outer space set­ting for me, which is of course stim­u­lated by some of the titles, which sug­gest celes­tial bod­ies and explor­a­tion.

While some tracks are con­tent to drift, with brighter and darker synth melod­ies and some­times slightly gritty drones, other pick up some­thing of a pace, with choppy drums, or just bass pulses. These dynam­ics not only emphas­ise the feel­ing of jour­ney­ing (i.e. voy­ager) but also make the album var­ied to listen to. The first three tracks have a strong buildup and a bright, open atmo­sphere, which some­what jars with the title of “War Is Near”. It’s an inter­est­ing ambi­gu­ity, made stronger by Leblanc’s lulling vocals on this track, which sug­gest any­thing but impend­ing con­flict. Neither do lovely serene tracks like “Peacecalm” and “La Luna”. Near the end, more bold tracks like “Alpha” and “Voy­ager” build the album towards a deep cli­max.

Alpha Heaven is prob­ably my most-played album from last year, which is a recom­mend­a­tion by itself. No weak tracks, no prob­lems with replay­ab­il­ity, in other words: this one can go on repeat. But within the album struc­ture, it’s the final track that takes the cake. Unfor­tu­nately the track in ques­tion, “Return to Jupiter”, is exclus­ive to the CD and digital edi­tions of the album. The LP edi­tion does come with a down­load, so at least you’ll have the track in some form. In any case, it’s a slightly dif­fer­ent ver­sion of “Return to Jupiter Jazz”, which appeared on an earlier 10″.

The track deserves a para­graph of its own because it’s just that damn good. A ten-minute romp of epic space travel poured into thick synths and massive rhythms. It’s indeed like return­ing to Jupiter, but it feels as if you’re doing it on the inter­stel­lar equi­val­ent of a chop­per, the engines chug­ging away behind you as you soar through the void. There’s a lot of bright col­ours, power­ful horns as a vague nod to the ‘clas­sic’ sound of space music, quite a bit of solar wind in your hairs… It’s astound­ing how AUN have mar­ried spa­cious ambi­ent to psy­che­delic rock here. I know it’s their sig­na­ture style, but that doesn’t make it any less impress­ive.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Koenig (5:39)
2. Returna (5:26)
3. War Is Near (5:32)
4. Viva (2:55)
5. Vul­can (5:12)
6. La Luna (5:31)
7. Peacecalm (2:25)
8. Alpha (4:48)
9. Voy­ager (5:30)
10. Flood­land (4:00)
11. Return To Jupiter (10:40)