Alpha impresses with “The Impossible Thrill”

KateLynn Garden, Eastside Staff

The Impossible Thrill is a 2001 album by English group Alpha. They have yet to break out into the mainstream, although they have been making music since 1996. Specializing in trip hop and acid jazz, they have an extremely similar sound to Portishead, another English group from the same area. This LP was released on fellow trip-hop group Massive Attack’s record label, Melankolic. Alpha now has its own label, dontTouch Recordings.

The album runs almost 49 minutes, and it has 11 tracks, which all have very minimalistic titles. This group seems to have the perfect mix of soft vocals and downbeat music. The songs are very easy to listen to and have great rhythms. They have a very melancholic sound like on the track “Dim”. As the track becomes louder and faster, the vocalist begins to urgently sing the words “Alone, alone, alone/ So we’ll hold this.” The song ends on this note and goes straight into the next. The use of dynamics is also strong in this piece; the vocalist crescendos from piano to fortissimo with a burst of emotion.

The use of emotion is perhaps what makes this album so great. It’s a lot easier to convey emotion in most songs with a twangy guitar or slightly out of tune piano. On this album, the band employs the use of the electronic music and synthesizers to get the most out of the lyrics. They are able to emphasize what the vocalists, Wendy Stubbs, Helen White and Martin Barnard are singing or speaking with the layers they put behind it. When the vocalists become quieter so does the track. As the vocals get more and more intense, the music gets faster and louder with a sense of desperation that makes the listener become excited.

Although it was a bit frightening at first, the track “Almost There” samples other forms of media perfectly. In the beginning, there are voices that can be heard over a few chords that sound like they may be coming from a piano. This leads into a smoother, jazz-like sound that many of the other tracks have as well. The overall experimental sound makes it incredibly interesting to listen to. In tracks like “Wise”, the band is able to not only combine classic instruments like violin and piano with the drums and synthesizer, but also make the music sound completely natural.

The male and female vocalists do an amazing job at capturing the sound and adding the right amount of emotion behind the words without overdoing it. The tracks are put well together and work well with the vocal counterparts.

This album will pull you in and won’t let you go until it is completely over. Alpha is the best-kept secret of the trip hop music scene.