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L’Altra

Streaming of “Telepathic”

Years ago now, L’Altra presented themselves on the indie scene as a –somewhat more literary and less tormented– alternative twin sister to Low. Their slowcore with melancholic string arrangements and songs with whispered vocals sounded magnificent on “Music For A Sinking Occasion” (Aesthetics, 2000), and tended towards baroque on “In The Afternoon” (Aesthetics, 2002). The last thing we heard from them was in 2005, after their move to the Hefty label –L’Altra, always true to their hometown, Chicago– with “Different Days”. Since then, the L’Altra mystery has remained locked up, frozen in time. For six years, not a word has come out and everything pointed towards the end of the twosome and their network of collaborators. But before this spring is out, there will be a pleasant surprise for the gourmets of evanescent pop: the Acuarela label has caught up with L’Altra and will release their fourth album, Telepathic. on 14th March. A week before that you can listen to the songs here, accompanied with this commentary by Joseph Costa.

1. “Dark Corners I”

This is part one of the bookend tracks for the album. I originally wrote the piece on an old, out-of-tune upright piano we have in our house. I then had our drummer Charles Rumback write out the charted music for it because I can’t read or write music... I then passed the sheet music along to our sometime horn player Charles Gorczynski who played and recorded every instrument on this version. The bandoneón he plays is the eerie and perfect opening to the album. {mp3}01 Dark Corners I{/mp3}

2. “Nothing Can Tear It Apart”

This song developed slowly over 6 months. I originally just had the lead guitar melody that if you listen to closely and imagine it slowed down could be lifted from 'Pale Blue Eyes' by the Velvet Underground. The chords that go under this melody are just super basic so we were unsure if it was just too simple of a song to write... Then Lindsay came up with this contra tempo piano that gave the song this really back and forth rhythmic pull. All of a sudden it worked for us. In the studio, the song still felt a little too light and fluffy (even for us!) until Alfredo Nogueria pulled out this really annoying guitar distortion pedal (that we previously banned from the recording session) and came up with the screaming quasi-metal guitar part in the choruses, thus giving the song some you know whats...

Lyrically I had the line ‘nothing can tear it apart’ as a response to ‘Love will tear us apart’ in thinking that there are some things can't even be destroyed by love, and the rest of the words are like a defence of that theory.{mp3}02 Nothing Can Tear It Apart{/mp3}

3. “Big Air Kiss”

This song started out as a few chords on a classical guitar with the line ‘a big air kiss that somehow I missed.’ It came out after being at this party where I felt completely out of place and ignored. I just stood around looking at pretty girls but didn’t talk to anyone. Then in the studio this tune developed into one of L’Altra’s most country inspired tracks. The drums were inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s song Dreams and the addition of Alfredo’s pedal steel really solidified the song’s country feel. {mp3}03 Big Air Kiss{/mp3}

4. “Boys”

I wrote the beginnings of this song while visiting family in a remote town in the middle of Sicily. In the room I stay in there is this old Italian electric guitar and amplifier. The guitar only had 5 strings and was a little rusty... I think the songs baroque feel is inspired by the dry and yellow surroundings and remoteness of Sicily. The song then really came to life when Lindsay wrote the grand piano part and added her swirling vocal oh’s and ah’s. Charles also came up with this beautiful bed of drums and cymbals that really give it just enough movement. {mp3}04 Boys{/mp3}

5. “When The Ship Sinks Make It Sing”

Lindsay and I are still in disagreement over who initially came up with this song. She thinks she wrote the initial piano line and so do I... I guess that is the great thing about a good collaboration, the lines blur and in the end it we both are right. This song also has a longer title ‘When the Ship Sinks Make it Sing.’ I was in a hotel room with Charles Rumback and I woke up and told him to remember the sentence ‘when the ship sinks make sing.’ He never sleeps so he wrote it down. I passed the line to Lindsay and she wrote all the lyrics. The song stalled for a while in the studio until Josh Eustis added the bass synth part and all of a sudden the song worked again. {mp3}05 When The Ship Sinks Make It Sing{/mp3}

6. “Black Wind”

This song also was written on that same old upright piano in our house. I was at a funeral, but for a person I didn’t know very well, so I wasn’t sad. I was just kind of an observer, it was an odd experience. Later I began this song with that feeling in mind. So maybe this song is about the end. I’m not sure... Josh Abrams plays and amazing double-bass on this track and got it on the first take. The horn line is inspired by the song ‘Spottieottiedopaliscious’ by Outkast. It sounds nothing like it aside from the idea of this repetitive catchy repeating horn line. {mp3}06 Black Wind{/mp3}

7. “Either Was The Other’s Mine”

This is one of those perfect Lindsay songs where I don’t even have to add or play anything. Its perfect all by itself. Lindsay seems to come up with one of these on every album. The title is inspired by a children’s story. Marc Hellner put down this beautiful ambient guitar bed and the drums are inspired by ‘Purple Rain’. The strings were composed by a Chicago classical composer named Nate Swanson. {mp3}07 Either Was The Others Mine{/mp3}

8. “Winter Loves Summer Sun”

This song was born in the recording studio with Josh Eustis later adding all the synth lines that make the song open up in the way it does. Lindsay and I wanted to do a song where we sing call-and-response vocals and this one ended up working. We had Gainsbourg and Birkin in mind when we wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies. We each wrote our own lyric lines so it was truly like a weird conversation within a song. {mp3}08 Winter Loves Summer Sun{/mp3}

9. “This Bruise”

This song was written around an ambient track by Marc Hellner that I found inside an old hard- drive. The base ambient layer must be from around 2003 or earlier because that’s when Marc and I were last roommates. I just wrote the song on top of his track which is funny because the song itself is about being taken advantage of and cheated by your friends. {mp3}09 This Bruise{/mp3}

10. “Telepathic”

This song follows it’s name... Lindsay wrote part A, while I wrote part B. We later showed each other the parts and realized they fit together perfectly. Lindsay wrote all the lyrics and came up with the vocal melodies and harmonies. We knew from the beginning once we played it that it needed to be the title track of the album as well as the last track on the album with its cautiously hopeful feeling ending {mp3}10 Telepathic{/mp3}

11. “Dark Corners II”

This is the second of the bookends to the album. This time we took the sheet music and Charles Rumback brought in a bunch of jazz horn players from Chicago and we recorded this piece in Josh Eustis’ loft. It was a hot and humid summer day in Chicago and the temperature was like 100 degrees. I think that heat helped contribute to the sweaty messy vibe of this track. It sounds very New Orleans to me, funny because Josh is from there. {mp3}11 Dark Corners II{/mp3} L’Altra, the cult slowcore band, reappears on the indie scene six years after the start of their winter sleep, under the wings of the Acuarela label. Joseph Costa comments on the songs of “Telepathic” here, one by one.

Telephatic

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