If you have been watching closely, this album will confirm any convictions or thoughts you feel towards Frenchman Mike Levy or as he’s better known as, Gesaffelstein. His stellar productions for Bromance, his thriving aggressive live shows and his imprint upon the controversial Yeezus have brought the hype and Levy has delivered bountifully.
His name is the conjunction of the German expression ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (which is an expression of the pursuit of all art forms) and the great scientist Albert Einstein. When coupled with the album’s Hebrew title Aleph (which means Alpha), Levy creates a picture that is as every bit as boisterous, aggressive and mysterious as the sound the man wishes to create. His interviews with the likes of Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe and Mixmag reinforce the seriousness he feels towards his music; he knows what he wants to create and feels indifference towards everything else:
“I don’t think I’m in this game – the EDM, techno or electro game. I have the thing that I do and I try to something different but I don’t want to try and find a place and just stay in my chair. If I have to move I have to move, I don’t care.”
It’s true. No doubt there are elements of techno and electro blasted like shrapnel throughout the record but it’s tracks like Hellifornia that digress wildly and still remain within the Gesaffelstein boundaries. It’s aggressive bass and soaring synth lead may sound like a peculiar attempt at trap but ultimately calls upon the angry rap musicians of yesteryear whom Levy admires so much. The most unique track on the album makes it apparent why Kanye West decided to enlist him.
But it’s tracks like Pursuit, Obsession and Hate or Glory that hearken to the influences Gesaffelstein has undertaken within the EDM spectrum. They’re nothing short of ruthless techno mind-f*cks and they take us into the most lively areas of Levy’s mind. The music videos are of course the perfect accompaniment to his search for what he sets to achieve here:
The halfway mark is the auditory equivalent to the ‘eye of the storm’. The eponymous Aleph sounds like a horrifying reincarnation of something out of the Drive soundtrack and eases the listener slowly into the eerie Wall of Memories. It’s gentle, plucking melody is uncomfortably overridden by spiraling static and a slow, pulsating bassline. Surely this is either a clever attempt at recreating some ancient horror movie score or it’s a terrifying insight into Levy’s mind. If anything, it’s the calm before the storm, because the aptly named Duel soon explodes into existence. It’s nothing short of an adrenaline rush and quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Soon, it’s the penultimate Trans which mercilessly marches us towards the end. As in his live shows, the Frenchman is every bit as aggressive from start to finish.
Finally, it’s the bravely named Perfection which melts in. It’s soft, sleek synth pads ascertain Gesaffelstein’s love for the synthesizer and would even give Vangelis a run for his money. It’s hair-raising material for sure.
But for all the mystery and bravado, does the album live up to it’s namesakes? Does all the drama, the violence and the darkness make do? Not quite… For instance, Values is by far the weakest track on the album. But you know what, to paraphrase Mike Levy, who cares? You could do a lot worse than to get this album. Nothing is perfect of course but art can be argued as the perfect and most purest form of self-expression. Gesaffelstein pursues as many different sounds as possible within one signature sound and Aleph, is therefore almost certainly art. It’s every bit as violent, dark and passionate as you want or need it to be… It’s all there.
“Grant me the old man’s frenzy,/ Myself must I remake/ Till I am Timon and Lear/ Or that William Blake/ Who beat upon the wall/ Till truth obeyed his call.”
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