Released: 7th February 2020
Label: Tin Angel Records
Format: CD / LP / DD / DSP
Alex Rex is the nom de guerre of Alex Neilson; member of now defunct Scottish folk-rock band, Trembling Bells. He is also drummer to some of the most innovative musicians on the international underground, including Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Shirley Collins, Jandek and Current 93.
Andromeda is the sound of a man breaking free of any shackles that have held him back before. There is a deliberately ramshackle nature about some of the songs, but by god do they get to you, and grab you.
An opening featuring Shirley Collins sets the tone for the album. Song Of Self Doubt is a poem set to buzzing and swirling sounds of nature.
Funeral Music for Alex Rex is wonderful in its lyrical delivery; it’s spoken rather than sung and really is a trip. The choir tinged music that accompanies this monologue like songs adds to a bizarrely tense mesa of music.
There are plenty of Dylanisms throughout Andromeda. Oblivion, Coward’s Song and Handful Of Hair all carry this motif. The latter has a drawl that Leonard Cohen would be proud of. The passion in the vocals and the subtle steel guitar give a country tinged feel – a man that is pouring out his heart.
Many of the songs on Andromeda were written after Rex’s younger brother died, suddenly. It’s clear that there is anguish, despair and longing throughout. The aforementioned Coward’s Song directly references this in it’s lyrics.
I Am Happy pulls on the influence of early 90’s Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. It is one of many highlights amongst the album. I’m Not Hurting Anymore could also find its place amongst the Bad Seeds catalogue. The bass and guitars that churn through the song make your skin crawl. This is vile and confrontational music; and with Rex delivering more spoken vocals, it’s uncomfortable. There is almost a direct contradiction of the song title in the music. This is exciting music.
Andromeda is steeped in emotion; dark and light. Pass The Mask closes out the album with a brighter tone, but the lamenting lyric keeps a sombre tone.
Some of the best music comes out of tragedy and heartbreak. It gives an extra dimension, and can really increase your empathy when listening. It’s no coincidence that people listen to music to suit their mood. Andromeda is a tough listen in parts, purely due to the subject matter. That aside, the music is wonderfully constructed and although there are obvious nods to clear influences, this is a unique album. It is one that deserves your attention and one that you need to give yourself too. Listen to it with the lyric sheet; it will enhance your experience.