Has there ever been a more appropriate moment for an album called Lowered Expectations? At a time when institutions and their leadership seem to fail us as often as not, Bradley Sean Alexander has chosen precisely the right title for his new three-track release.
His work is equally appropriate for this new year (he chose Jan. 1 as his release date). Alexander has produced three flawless pieces of multilayered ambience, perfectly suited for whatever existential crisis lands next.
Alexander is well-known in electronic music circles as head of Polar Seas Recordings and as an accomplished performer himself. This is his first solo work under his own name. Lowered Expectations is available as a limited-edition cassette (20 pieces have been produced) and as a digital download. He describes this as a “prelude” to a cassette of ambient/cello recordings planned for the spring.
This tape opens with “Requiem For A New Year.” Alexander’s approach to minimalist drone composition has a new classical feel. He uses synth lines like strings, which provides the work a comforting, organic feel. As is the case throughout the tape, there’s space here to accommodate slices of bird song and – if I’m not mistaken – a passing vehicle.
“Decline, Of Everything” follows. One of the drone lines sounds like gently grinding metal. It’s not an unpleasant sound. Quite the reverse, it complements the piece’s lower drone and produces a sense of depth. There’s also a gentle percussion-like effect low in the mix. It doesn’t keep time like a drum beat; it’s paced to sound like someone walking, giving us a focal point to follow.
“What Once Was, Gone Forever” closes the release. It is every bit as melancholy as it sounds. But not in a self-absorbed or egocentric way. Like the rest of the album, this last piece is more empathetic than sad. In that sense, the work is positive, uplifting even.
Without having discussed the work with Alexander, my hunch is he’s making an effort here to recognize the times we’re in and to offer solace. This is a friend’s voice, and he’s got a lot to say.