Peel Dream Magazine is the brainchild of New York based composer Joe Stevens. It features indie pop and shoegaze that’s heavily influenced by Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine, with its 2018 debut Modern Music Meta Physic being mostly a solo endeavor.
In its sophomore album however, Peel Dream Magazine takes a step forward. Stevens is joined by friends in this collaborative effort. Agitprop Alterna was realized with the help of Kelly Winrich, Brian Alvarez (drums) and Jo-Anne Hyun (vocals). Hyun’s vocals are a huge part of this album, it ebbs and flows in combination with Stevens, and provides a much needed softness that elevates each track to an even dreamier state.
The opener “Pill” is doused in a thick haze of distorted guitars and misty vocals. Its blurry rhythmic pace and hypnotic vocal chant portrays our tendency to accept what we’re being fed without question: “Tongue, pill, chew, It’s all I do, I do”. “Emotional Devotion Creator” follows in the same vein with it’s in-between-meditative-to-robotic vocal delivery. The droning static and punchy drums will lull you into a mesmerizing swirl of noise.
“NYC Illuminati” is an interesting one to dissect. Its ominous chorus, heavy reverb and vintage organs will take you to the depths of an underground cult society. This shares some similarities with “The Bertolt Brecht Society”, where stacks of layered vocals are intricately weaved together, sung like a hymn in a choir. Part prayer, poem and meditation, it pays homage to the poet and playwright of the same name.
Acoustic guitar parts make an appearance at the end of the album, creating a poppier vibe. In “Do It”, it blends with a blooming swirl of synths that coalesce like jellyfish swimming on top of the mix. The closing “Up and Up” is an emotional high for the whole album. Droplets of synths are interspersed with feel-good guitars and vocals to evoke a sense of flight. Bertolt is referenced again with Stevens declaring that: “There are answers that the theater will provide”. And true enough, some experiences that can only be felt through art, and this track is a testament to that.
Even with it’s clear influences to 90’s avante garde pop movements, Agitprop Alterna manages to stand on its own two feet. With modern production methods and the ails of our current societal climate, they’ve managed to craft a sound and message that combines the old and the new. The electronic and shoegaze work are stellar in this album, but the highlight for me is how the vocals are even more intricately crafted, as if arranged by a choral maestro. This album is perfect for cozy indoor listening, but there’s plenty of depth to be had for those who want to dig deep.
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