Alpha Strategy

Alpha Strategy

Ahh, how long ago, you, 2011; that fateful day when Rory Hinchey’s Alpha Strategy project first tripped its way into my mailbox. It was a split release, out on his Ownness imprint backing up the Czech Republic’s Projekt Stinka on a terrific record (that features a beautiful cover drawn up by Graham Lambkin). From listening, right away it was clear that this fellow from Toronto was up to something on a completely different level, one of those “doesn’t play with a full deck,” types. The music just didn’t want to fit anywhere in my mind, jarring and abrasive, completely off-the-axis in terms of melody and structure. The project, at that time really just the product of one man's efforts, leaned on its sample-based approach, borrowing drum grooves from 60s soundtracks and girl group records, warping them into demonic loops to sit beneath a belligerent, barking vocal shouted out over the top. An instant pull-push effect  was the result, undeniably magnetic for listener, who hovered between the music’s ferocious extremity and groovy-chill temperament - drawn into a whirlpool of hip rhythm, only to be forcefully shaken at the shoulders by the music’s manic bent-circuitry, sharp guitar atonalism and that unforgettable, drunken-phrased howl of a voice Hinchey slaps on for good measure. 

Three years later, and the two tracks from that short, 45RPM 12-inch, “Append and Divide,” as well as a new version of “Tar,” would wind up appearing on this, Alpha Strategy’s debut full-length record, which also arrives to us via Ownness and can’t seem to find its way off of my turntable this afternoon. And as it turns out, those two titles were only mere hints to the broader scope of Hinchey’s twisted vision, which zones in considerably under a band-configuration, filling out nine additional tracks for a round 11 total. Now a fully fledged quartet featuring guitar, electronics, bass, and live drums, this very weird project feels so much more constructed and whole, providing the samples that underlie Hinchey's foundational style with a more defined generic concept of what this essentially is at its core. 

So what I once thought was originally supposed to be some warped, artsy re-interpretation of doo-wop or some other bygone popular style, is really just a cleverly reconfigured vehicle for pure post-punk, the kind that drips into your blood like an IV. Dark, slinking bass lines sway around militant drums, spiky guitar stabs and strobing electronics, all of it coming together in a set of sinister material that recalls the likes of Public Image Limited or This Heat more than anything else, or even The Birthday Party, which is actually covered on the album in a rousing rendition of “Rowland Around in that Stuff." And it is within this context that Hinchey’s patience-testing vocal starts to make some sense. In fact, careful listens reveal just how much more in control of his melody, tonality, and phrasing he is than at first meets the ear, hitting quite a lovely melody in “Pang,” as well as on album standout “Thread,” while allowing his more open-form wail to skillfully follow the contours of the album's turbulant lyric sheet (which, by the way, coming with the record printed on an 11x11 square insert, proves to be this release's secret weapon).

So what's all this mean for you, dear reader/listener? Are you up for it you think? I'll be honest, from the ballistic opening seconds of "Heart of a Girl" to the blunted end of "Out of My Hand," I think a good 85% of this recording is going to make your nose wrinkle when you first hear it. There's just no getting around Alpha Strategy's planned weirdness, an almost violent negation of consonance... hardly anything that's designed to be ear-pleasing ("Thread" is about as close as it gets). But to my ears, to my mind, and to my experience as an active listener of new music, there hasn't been a band that I've felt was more important to the outlook of our good buddy rock 'n' roll since maybe ZS' New Slaves. Completely unique in today's musical moment with the attitude and skill to back up its bizarre bounty, Alpha Strategy is a challenge to be faced — and you might just need own strategy when found head-to-head with it on the hallowed battlegrounds of your headphones.


Alpha Strategy


March 16th, 2015