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    A LIFE, A SONG, A CIGARETTE

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    BalconyTV

    by BalconyTV

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    The boys from ALASAC put their cards on the table: what's on the cover of their albums is what's inside. Fresh Kills Landfill, their debut, was named after a rubbish dump on Staten Island, and, in keeping with its name, struck up the melody to a dance on the remains of the American Dream. Black Air is the literal translation of a Viennese expression: "Schwarze Luft", ambulance drivers' jargon for the night. When the black air comes people die, people go mad, they're on the trail or on the run, it's the time of miracles and awakenings. Black Air - two words that perfectly define the wondrous and terrible cosmos of these ten songs. Songs, once again all from the pen of singer/songwriter Stephan Stanzel, which have lost their innocence, in comparison to those of the first album, but not their honesty. Songs with the urgency of Marie, a portrait of a girl, not so young anymore, which is so bursting with empathy that it feels about to "smash into pieces". Songs like Near, with the artistry of Blood on the Tracks-era Dylan, or, a little earlier, Gram Parsons. Great, mad songs like Tears, where this masterful band, on the road almost continuously for the last year and a half, threaten to dissolve, before pulling it all together again, as if reborn. And sad songs like Fever or the title track whose intimacy is as disarming as it is dangerous. The record was produced by former Posies frontman, and sometime REM member, Ken Stringfellow who brought with him a big, wide-screen feel. His many studio tricks don't get in the way of the band's talent, but he has found a way to boost their sound, like the gain switch on an old valve amplifier. A clear sound begins to whirr and crack at the edges, without losing its power -- that's what happens on this record.

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