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Monday, November 30, 2015

Premiere: Plunge Into Al Lover's Trippy New Beat Album Zodiak Versions

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 7:01 AM

click to enlarge Alex Gundlach, aka Al Lover. - CREDIT: JULIA DEANDA
  • Credit: Julia DeAnda
  • Alex Gundlach, aka Al Lover.

For the last six years, Al Lover has lived in the Inner Richmond, working days at Rooky Ricardo's Records in Lower Haight and dropping psychedelic, lyric-less albums in his free time. But that happy paradigm is soon to be broken. A week from now, Lover, whose real name is Alex Gundlach, will become the latest beatmaker to leave Fog City for other horizons (in his case, Austin, Texas).

"There's an artist/musician mass exodus [from San Francisco] right now," said Lover, who produces all of his albums from his home studio. "I love this town, but I don't feel like it moves me like it once did. I'm not bitter, just anxious for something fresh."

To commemorate his departure, Lover will be DJ-ing one last show at Underground SF on Dec. 5. He's also released his latest project, a 12-track beat tape called Zodiak Versions (premiered below) that is heavily influenced by German Krautrock from the '70s and Jamaican dub reggae. Like his other works, the album lacks vocals and is entirely instrumental. It's heady and atmospheric, with a lot of synths and percussion, repetition and distortion. The tracks range widely, with some songs sounding like a post-apocalyptic train station during rush hour ("Kling Klang Soundclash") and others, like "Studio Einer Dub," that sound more like the climax of an opulent, cocktail party aboard a yacht on the Mediterranean. 

When Lover moved to San Francisco in 2008 with a group of friends from North Carolina, he was part of a hip-hop crew. Within a few years, he grew tired of rapping and making beats and gravitated towards working on his own solo projects. He dropped his first album, Reflective Flesh, on Bandcamp in July of 2010, but it wasn't until mid-2011, with the release of Distorted Reverberations (of Reverberating Distortion), that he finally started making a name for himself in the Bay Area beat scene. Listeners were drawn to the weirdness of the music and Lover's penchant for combining disparate genres (like garage-punk and hip-hop) into one. "I like the idea of trying to create something new instead of emulating a played-out formula," he said. "You're not going to invent a new genre, but it's cool to create new combinations."

Zodiak Versions, his eighth album to date, was birthed from a project that Lover started while driving throughout Europe last summer to promote his 2013 record, Sacred Drugs. Whilst in the eight-seater tour van, which smelled like Morrocan hash and tobacco, Lover wrote little loops and bass lines "just to kind of pass the time." By the time he got back to the States, he had the skeleton of what would become his eighth album—and first originally-composed project. "This record is not based off samples," he said. "It's not like anything else I've done." 

With it's deep bass lines and spacey, meditative notes, Zodiak Versions is less aggressive than Lover's previous projects. It's more ambient than it is turn-up; more lotus pose than head-banger. And, it also happens to be perfect for driving, which may or may not be a coincidence, given Lover's impending move. 

Al Lover will be playing at Underground S.F. on December 5. More info here

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Jessie Schiewe


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