Alexander Tucker remains inscrutable.
Alexander Tucker remains inscrutable. Whether through his solo work, his participation in Grumbling Fur, or other collaborations, he hasn’t exactly made transparent music. Some key elements persist: the folky roots, the electronic questing, the astral sensibility. Even with that core in his approach, multi-instrumentalist Tucker wriggles from trouble Renaissance fair to art installation to Eno revisit to something burbling back from the future. On Guild of the Asbestos Weaver, his second album in just two years, he pushes into the weirder parts of his sound while building on his love of science fiction and horror. In doing so, he creates something as unsettling as it is hypnotic.
Tucker cites Ray Bradbury directly—the album title comes from Farenheit 451—but someone like Gene Wolfe, in his blend of past and present, might make for immediate literary parallel. Tucker still feels medieval, although maybe that’s a hangover of his recent work, but it’s his technological play that makes the songs so unnerving. He uses traditional instruments in his compositions but turns them into unfamiliar material. The cello in “Montag,” bowed across a sci-fi movie soundtrack, sounds like a cello, but he blends it into the synthetic structure of the piece.
On other tracks, the bass and cello disappear into the weight of the electronic effects. “Artificial Origin” turns almost to doom in its darkness, and Tucker’s oblique lyrics turn his voice into something more expressive than revealing. The deeper ideas here are just out of range of articulation, not exactly psychedelic but not intended for clear processing either. As the drone induces a trance setting, the strange sounds and stories point to something beyond the mundane without clearly stating it.
At its best, as during the previously mentioned tracks, Guild reshapes thinking with puzzling sounds, the cyborg music that naturally follows much of his previous work and Grumbling Fur—with the pop elements largely removed. At times, the music carries a little too much sheen for a little too long. “Precog” never gets quite weird enough to merit its length (despite being the second shortest track here). Whenever the music sounds indie-film comfortable, Tucker’s less successful than when we’re lost in a blend of cultic robes and machinery we can’t quite comprehend.
“Cryonic” closes the album with a 10-minute pulse as a choir of Tuckers intones the single word “cyronic” over and over. The vocals lodge somewhere between a drone and a thinner Gregorian chant. The minimalist influences peak here, with Tucker stretching time with his gradual shifts and background modulations. He provides space and tones to get lost in, but it makes for an odd ending, a frozen moment that doesn’t quite know what to do with itself other than to embrace its own iciness. Tucker goes deep into his world, moving from the acoustic into the electronic as a step into the future. Guild surprises even as it draws on previous work, setting an eerie trap for those who follow.