Written By: Chris Parsons
Avant-garde New York artist, Jacob Hales recently released his musically progressive, debut full-length album, Alice Finds Home. Simply “Name Your Price” and the 14-tracks can be streamed and downloaded from Bandcamp at your leisure. If this album reflects anything, it’s Jacob’s eclectic ear for all sounds; exhibiting a tendency to blend various styles and influences, as well as noise and music, into his electro-acoustic arrangements. As a solo project, all of the writing, performing, and recording duties were performed by Jacob, himself, only choosing to outsource the mastering touches to wrap it up nice and neat. The final product is an amazingly epic concept album featuring Lewis Carroll’s little angel, Alice, but in a new, strange and twisted light.
“To Give the Disease” serves as the introduction to the album, and Jacob Hales‘ writing style, opening with what sounds like the moan-humming of a work song overtop of some minimalist plucks, and electronic beats. This soft ambiance abruptly, yet smoothly, trembles into a noisy collage of found sounds creating a heavy percussion backbeat, as Jacob snarls in a guttural wheeze reminiscent of Captain Beefheart. A brief, subdued instrumental bridges the two verses; the acousmatic sounds evoke the imagery a machine humming in the background as a bassoon wades in an eerie descent. The next verse paints the imagery of the Devil walking down ‘Avenue B.,’ and features all new instrumentation from what we heard before, but surely maintaining the eerie vibe with high frequency synth pulsations and found percussion tip-tapping, thus slipping right into the next mini-movement. Here, the tip-taps are are met with vibraphone and Jacob’s more familiar, half-spoken vocals rising and falling, met by darkly ambient synth drones that seem to imitate a bass string section. The next chapter of “To Give a Disease” exhibits a rock beat supplied off of an actual drumset, as dancey snyths float and dip, right into the nasty, snarling character from before, intent on carrying the song out on an uptempo rocker.
From this description of the opening track alone, the album already sounds very involved as it featured many unique movements, seemingly scatter-brained, but executed so deliberately that Jacob seems wholly in control at all times, all the while possessing an ear for the unusual, and the brain for “pop” idioms and sequences. The raw and mangled algamation of these elements creates a bi-polar tendency in Jacob’s arranging and writing which is heard throughout the rest of the album that seems split between the aesthetics of new folk and freak folk. Another interesting and significant factor to note is the particular use of electro-acoustic sounds chosen in Jacob’s performance. The honestly raw vocals and falsettos are left virtually untouched and in the forefront of the mixes, without the aid of– and possibly in spite, or mockery, of– autotune, while the instrumentation is composed of electronic synths, variously effected (usually electric) guitars, and found percussion. These compositions are for a truly refined ear; ones so tired of the same-old, age-old music structures that they are driven towards the “outsider” realms of Jandek, Tom Waits, and Wild Man Fischer. Assuredly, it can be a challenge to classify or target the appropriate audience for Jacob Hales‘ avant-garde sound because the experimental nature will be a trial, almost a psychological study, of hit-or-miss. If your ears have developed enough to appreciate the curious subtleties of psychedelic music, beautiful noise, and everyday sounds, there’s a good chance you will dig Alice Finds Home by Jacob Hales.