Grammy-nominated musician Eric Alexandrakis’s latest concept album “TERRA,” released cross-platform on Sept. 18, is an unnerving yet eclectic amalgamation of new wave, pop, surf rock and metal. A self-proclaimed “alternative” to the “traditional [a]lternative,” this album presents a stark contrast between the natural world and the over-saturated, over-synthesized ambiance of reality. While its songs draw thematically from the sights and sounds of air travel, Alexandrakis also weaves fabrications of memories, personal experiences and anecdotal narratives. Heavily inspired by emotion, conflict and the complexities of inner life, the 28-track album presents the trials and tribulations of Alexandrakis’ day-to-day life in excruciating detail.
Most of the instrumental tracks are “transitionary,” providing an interwoven airport ambiance to the album as a whole. Most tracks, such as “ATH – > HER,” “Turbulence,” “Mind The Gap,” “Special Inflight Offer” and “Thank You For Flying With Us” are simply airplane voice overs, presumably from pilots or flight attendants. Others, such as “Now Boarding: Air Terra Flight EA918,” “Faith In Avarice (World War Zero)” and “The Short Lived Mighty Terran Empire” are much more expansive, eerie and atmospheric. Each song brings about a state of otherworldliness, more often than not interrupted with crackles of thunder, rain or other naturally-occurring sounds. Quite frankly, it’s difficult to pinpoint the noises you’re hearing –– once you think you’ve recognized it, the sound undergoes a harrowing transformation.
“The Mighty Terran Empire” begins with a distorted Alexandrakis, who tells the tale of a troubled ruler whose kingdom is in seemingly irreparable ruin. Heavily-saturated guitar leads and vocals haunt the track, before indulging in a cathartic cacophony of sound. The track’s experimental nature effectively foreshadows the rest of the album, both of which evoke unusually dismal moods.
“Caroline The Hot Flight Attendant” opens with the overtly sensual voice of Caroline, the subject of the track. Whirly synths and percussive elements jut out throughout the song, before culminating in an explosion of instrumentation, leaving listeners unsure whether to laugh or wag one’s finger at Alexandrakis.
In “My Rainy Day,” abrasive, hard-hitting percussion drives the track, while a light, pleasant synth sound and front-and-center vocals glide over a grating electric guitar lead. Soon after, an uproar of distorted maniacal laughter swells, and then, for a brief moment, everything feels safe and sound. The song’s cheerful overtones cloud the grim reality of Alexandrakis’ lyrics: “Outside my periscope I can’t see / my own world is eclipsed and gone.”
“Stalker Fever (No Sleeping in the Dark)” weaves in and out of alternative rock sensibilities, simultaneously proving its radio play-time potential. Thrashed guitar leads and the quiet lull of a synth flood the soundscape, while a hushed Alexandrakis plays the role of an obsessed stalker: “We’ve never met eye-to-eye, / But you’re thinking of me, / I know for sure don’t lie.”
The “A Little Bit Of History (Extended Mix)” sounds as if The Smashing Pumpkins tried their hand at an entirely electronic song. Alexandrakis’ voice trills over a bubbly synth and light acoustic strums, while a cluster of distorted screams and atmospheric synth risers concludes the track.
Whether it be tapping one’s foot or bobbing one’s head, the relatively-upbeat “I Love Me” is difficult not to move along to. Breezy vocals, shimmery synth arpeggios and the repeated “I love me” catch the song in a moment of utmost tenderheartedness. The track’s overall bright-eyed sound stands out from the rest of the album, providing a sort of resting point before trudging through the more slow-paced, disturbing tracks.
“She Sparkles” is Alexandrakis’ own Flock of Seagulls’ “Space Age Love Song:” a woman of celestial authority enchants a lovestruck Alexandrakis, who sings gleefully over a romp of electric guitars, keys and beaming tambourine shakes. The song works in tandem with the previous track in that it serves to lighten the dark mood generally felt throughout the album.
Alexandrakis opts for the acoustic guitar to introduce “Satan’s Fried Scapegoat Breakfast.” The track’s piano keys descend into cyberspace and choir-like vocals make way for grimy sonic textures. Here, Alexandrakis seems to sing directly to Satan himself: “I do declare you don’t know right from wrong. / How many days has it been since you’ve bathed, / Yourself in common sense.”
“Mediterranean Sun” is the quintessential throwback track. While not as experimental or musically explorative, the track’s fixation on alternative-surf-rock tendencies leaves the song more palatable to a wider listenership.
“Good Girls Never Waltz With Me” is a song for a sunny day. The track seems to stand out, as it refrains from overtly electronic or synthesized sonic elements. Twinkling keys sprinkle the song, while light strings uplift the scene before ending on an unexpectedly dark note.
A lonely guitar pluck opens “Open Heart Surgery,” which feels nearly dissonant. Alarms blare and punch through the mix, while a fuzzed-out Alexandrakis expresses mixed feelings over a presumed ex-lover: “I love you. / I hate you. / I want to kill you. / I want to kiss you.”
“The Old Man And His Girlfriend Sam,” as the title suggests, holds little to no significance to the album’s conceptual motivations. Alexandrakis recounts a story of deception and trickery from a first-person perspective, before concluding the narrative Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”-style.
Cloaked in darkness, “Melancholy Dolly” incites fear as Alexandrakis objectifies the harsh realities of the modern world: “Melancholy Dolly, / the world is really sorry, / for making you a victim of society.”
Aptly-named, “Pain” trickles in with a thumping kick drum, followed by a dizzying spell of glitch glitz and shrill, grimy textures. The track endures bouts of hysteria and chaos, all the while harsh swells of sound barrage the speakers. The end result is a song that is equal parts jarring and demonic.
“I Prefer To Do Ma Killin’ On Sundays” subsides once more in a genre-blend of “TERRA”’s own creation –– combining distinctly emo rock and folksy, pop elements. The track essentially combines the album’s more buoyant features with its flagrantly horrifying sounds –– most clearly noticed in the track’s lyrics –– and details Alexandrakis’ murderous tendencies.
“London Girls,” while predominantly new-wave-esque, combines elements of electronic, alternative rock and country music. The result is a bizarre, experimentalist approach to music that, at times, feels as if listening to a genre of Alexandrakis’ own making.
Conversely, “Outside” feels easier to grasp: bright flutes, twinkling synths and angelic harps guide listeners into the heart of the natural world, where one can sit among the sounds of nature.
In “Psychoimmunology,” Alexandrakis longs for normalcy: “All I want is a normal life, without any strife, that would be nice.” Poignant and effervescent, the track’s sun-kissed strings and bright synth chords are just as hopeful for what lies ahead.
“I’ll C U In H*ll” is Alexandrakis’ exposé anthem: “So long and farewell, I’ll c u in hell,” Alexandrakis sings, disclosing his topsy-turvy relationship with someone whom he’d rather no longer be on speaking terms with.
“Come Fly The World With Air Terra” is the first song to feature a duet, sung by Alexandrakis and Isolde Fair, and the first to explicitly refer to the album’s concept. While not the absolute final track to “TERRA,” the song essentially concludes the album in a flurry of poignantly-layered vocals and warm instrumentation.
This album is not for the faint of heart; in fact, “TERRA” is rough-around-the-edges by design. Most of the recordings consist of first takes while the album as a whole avoids auto-tuning or quantization. At first listen, it can also be difficult to distinguish between each song in part from the sheer abundance of tracks as well as the near-identical sonic framework supporting nearly every song. Heavy saturation, overdriven guitar leads and grainy, modulated vocals are a few of the many consistent characteristics that furnish Alexandrakis’ soundscape. The album’s strength lies not in cohesion nor its attention to conceptual consistency. Rather, its strength is evident in its uniquely ambitious approach in overstepping the boundaries of well-established music genres.
Mia Hammett is a Contributing Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.