“Shunt” by AL_X is a deeply interesting release from the great Fluttery Records. Interesting because “Shunt” has an eclectic variety to it that points to more of a curated mixtape than a cohesive body of work and yet it is also interesting because, in all this variety, somehow the album comes together and works really, really well.
I found this curated mixtape approach fascinating. With over 22 tracks and 70 minutes of sound, AL_X’s exploration of haunting ambient soundscapes, euphoric post-rock with noisy shoegazing moments, engaging electronics, upbeat EDM and forward-thinking folktronica is deeply engaging … there is even a wee splash here and there of neo-classical optimism that entertains. All these styles are expertly handled with careful craft to retain their distinctiveness and still they come together nicely to form “Shunt”.
In the liner notes, Alex Dunford aka AL_X speaks of the music being the accompaniment to his rather vivid dreams. I totally get that. The variety and the movement of the music within “Shunt” works with that description. This is a roller-coaster of a musical journey, a thrill-ride that is as inexplicable as it is heart-racing. The music twists and turns, leaving the listener guessing as to where it will turn next: will it move towards upbeat EDM or sidestep into a period euphoric post-rock interspersed with noisy shoegazing moments? It is this unknown that makes this journey so interesting and kudos to Dunford for that.
Take the first six tracks as prime examples of this journey:
The opening track – ‘Stormness’ – is a delightful ambient drone, one that prepares the listener for the grand post-rock of ‘Too late, Too far’ which really opens “Shunt” up and introduces Dunford’s voice amidst the sonic melee of beats, guitars & feedback.
From here we move to ‘Takk (En Sens)’, a piece that starts with piano, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel and haunting male and female vocals before exploding in an euphoric crescendo of electric guitars and electronics.
By now we are three tracks in and already AL_X has ticked all my personal boxes. The fourth track – ‘Into the trees’ – explores atmospheric EDM. There are, most definitely, hints of post-rock to this track, signs that remind me of the ground-breaking belter of an album by 65DOS – “Wild Light”. I really like this direction and Dunford doesn’t fail to deliver further instalments throughout “Shunt”.
Track five – ‘Shunt (Part 1)’ – is part atmospheric ambient drone and part shoegaze fuzz … it has a deliberate slowcore feel that is enticing.
We then shift gear with ‘Faux’ towards an upbeat folktronic soundscape where Dunford sings over acoustic guitar and an immersive electronic backing, one that grows in intensity over the near-3 minute duration.
Other moments of note include the heartbreakingly beautiful piano-led -classical expression of ‘Interlude I’ or the frenetic EDM-shaped ‘Colder’.
I genuinely could not sequence a better mixtape … and would urge Dunford & Fluttery to consider a seamless “mixed” version of this release.
All in, I thoroughly enjoyed this release and would highly recommend it. Fluttery have done it again and kudos to them, and for this release. “Shunt” by AL_X will, without doubt, featuring on my end-of-year list.