reviews and interviews.
A portion of a Mutek review from www.tangente.org:
D'entrée, les premiers à se faire entendre, hellothisisalex, amorcent cette promesse. Leurs airs semblent tout droit sortis d'une trame sonore enjouée de jeu vidéo 8-bit étranger sous une thématique de dessins animés mauve et rose. Exactement comme leur pièce qui se retrouve sur la compilation. --cuL
A portion of a Mutek review in Grooves from www.rjschepper.com (no longer online):
Of course, while the sheer volume of artists presented at MUTEK precludes a complete description of all events, certain performances stood out. In the electropop realm, hellothisisalex (Toronto’s Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey), Germany’s Nova Huta, and Felix Kubin combined on Wednesday for a night of retro-pop electronica. hellothisisalex presented a melange of retrograde 70s synthpop: mix vocal-less Depeche Mode with some DAT Politics, add a pinch of Solvent and Lowfish plus a heavy bottom end, and the result is an irresistible blend of simple tunes and child-like melodies. The eccentric Nova Huta began by delivering an interminable, rambling spoken intro, the unpleasant memory of which was quickly dispelled once his particular brand of electropop began. In a brazenly theatrical performance, Huta used simple props and accompanying videos to accompany his simple melodies and brief songs. Felix Kubin also presented a 70s/80s electropop style in a colourful performance embellished by keyboard flourishes. The following night, Toronto’s Solvent (Jason Amm) and Lowfish (Gregory De Rocher) provided a set of tight ‘robot’ music featuring tracks from their respective releases Solvent City and Maintain the Tension, including two tracks with vocodered vocals. - R. Schepper
hellothisisalex the acorn children CD-R (alectric records)
Somewhere between Isan and minimalistic Air without the drug problem is where you can find hellothisisalex. The stuff Melissa Creasy and Mark Prier do on their synths and computer is very melodic and soothing. I think of Plone and Plaid with fewer beats. hellothisisalex sound friendly, but don't get trapped. You know, the "naíveté-trap?" I think this team knows when it's pretty and nice enough and when a track is finished. Some people don't and tend to fuck up their stuff. Just like a cake with too much chocolate and sugar. But no danger here. I don't know if it's just because they are very good or if this is a result of a simplistic set-up. If the latter is the case, just keep it up and with a bit luck there should be a chance to see hellothisisalex on Top of the Pops. OK, the world is unfair, so maybe at least some record company wants to put out their very good seven track CD EP again. Lull-a-bye is such a nice way to end the CD. Friends of Freescha, Boc, Casino versus Japan and Morr Music stuff, please check out hellothisisalex! -René
From electroage's demodulation section:
Hellothisisalex's first self-released album, The Acorn Children, is a blend of electro-ambient melodies and IDM rhythms. It recalls the analog era of the 80's. So there's a pleasant rediscovery of what has been done back then. At the same time, it sounds a little ordinary, because most of it has been heard before. It's only after several attentive listening that you can appreciate its subtle textures.
The album is filled with raw waving synths and weird noises lead by minimalist rhythms and analog bass lines. Tracks like Spider's Theme and The Day it Went Away represent this very well.
There are also darker tracks with very beautiful and soothing melodies, like A Land of Lakes and Fire and Life of the Waves. They both introduce us to a more abstract side of the album. In fact, except for some modified voice samples, the entire album relies on its instrumental aspect.
This brings an ambiguous atmosphere to it. Because it's not easy to figure out what each song is about. They seem to take whatever direction they wish to take. Therefore, it is better to interpret them freely than to search for a specific meaning. In addition to this ambiguity, there's a sentiment of duality between the childish musical simplicity and the mature emotional complexity that can be found throughout the songs.
Technically, the recording quality is very surprising. The analog elements are well balanced. The structures are solid, yet unpredictable, because you can feel the improvisation that lead to the final version of each song. It is precise as well as evasive. So there's a lot of liberty given to the listener.
I think that Hellothisisalex has a lot of potential. Their music is very interesting to discover, and can be listened to regularly. I'm sure that with their exploratory approach, they will continue to bring original ideas to their music. Their first album was instrumental, I'm curious to know what it would sound like if they included lyrics in their upcoming one...
HELLOTHISISALEX - HOMELIFE ()
Zugegeben, ganz neu ist diese EP nicht. Aber es wäre einfach ungerecht, sie De:Bug-Lesern deshalb vorzubehalten. Homemade, das ist nämlich Altbaupoesie pur. Musik, die so warm ist, wie nur ein Ostberliner Kohleofen es sein kann. So eigenwillig wie die Tapete im unsanierten Treppenhaus, und so verklärt schwärmerisch wie ein Blick aus dem stets beschlagenen Doppelfenster. Ganz großartig.
Translation (by Gero Erdtmann & Mark Prier):
In all honesty, this EP is not really new, but it would be unfair to keep it from DE:bug readers just because it's older. This release sounds homemade, like the purest poetry. Imagine an old building in East Berlin in the early 20th century: warm like only an East Berlin coal oven can be; deliberate like a cozy old unrenovated home; and full of a misty-eyed enthusiasm, like glancing out of a perpetually foggy window. In one word, awesome.
Reviewed by: Janko.
From All Music Guide:
Taking their cue heavily from the bedroom-producer phenomenon, Hellothisisalex has a serious knack for abstract beats and purposeful mistakes. And with this penchant comes a love of antiquated machinery of the analog sort. Nevertheless, The Anachim Thorn is a brilliant debut for these electronic pranksters, who are willing to stick the plug in the wrong socket even when it is labeled "Danger." Classic drum machine bloops confront DSP technology with aplomb, setting Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey apart from the pack of anonymous laptop producers. Perhaps their geography sets them apart as well, as one of them lives in Toronto and the other in the rural Ontario countryside. Though it is hard to extract from the record alone, the duo claims to take a David Lynch-like look at small-town Canada, bouncing off themes with fellow Ontarian Manitoba (aka Dan Snaith). For a pair of novices, they attack their material with a confidence only matched by Kid606. Their restless spirit leads them down many different, often cloudy paths and fortunately the results are magnificent. The production values are high and so is the attention to detail and melody. This is by no means a complacent piece of faceless techno, but rather a fierce attack on the ultra-plain state in which techno found itself in the late '90s. — Ken Taylor
From the music editor at cdbaby:
Hellothisisalex accurately defines themselves as "fuzzy analog tones and jaunty pop beats for fans of catchy electro." These instrumental electronic tracks claim a territory that spans both the lush and sparse, with pointy edges and textured angles but supported by a foundation of atmosphere that, as they say, is both warming in the winter and cooling in the summer. Taking cues from Boards of Canada, Kraftwerk and Autechre, The Anachim Thorn's eleven tracks dance through sleepy soundscapes to mountain ranges of sampled free-for-all. Any way you look at it though, this is a must for fans of the above mentioned artists.
From electroage's demodulation section:
Hellothisisalex's second full-length album, The Anachim Thorn, is the perfect companion to their first release, The Acorn Children. In fact, it is the most logical continuation they could have done. Its eleven tracks continue in the same direction as before. They go certainly further than the previous album, but don't bring back much to the listener. It's unfortunate since The Acorn Children was so refreshing and original.
A second album is often critical in a project's reputation and credibility, since it usually gives a good idea about the artistic and technical potential of the project. And in the case of Hellothisisalex, it seems that they had enough material to fill a second entire album that says pretty much the same thing as its predecessor. There's nothing negative about it. Their creative process couldn't be more natural and healthy. But there's nothing there for the listeners who want to have more.
As a result, The Anachim Thorn is as refreshing and original, but is also identical, in terms of first impression and final impact. Of course, don't get me wrong when I say this, because the melodies are actually very diversified. The warm analogous synths are used with great flexibility. The rhythms are often lively, and lead the atmospheres subtly. The mixing is effective, and the general envelope is of good quality.
But still, even if there's an interesting return to the roots of electronic music, and a light musical approach that is almost experimental, the whole thing feels linear, even predictable, especially if you listened to them before. Hellothisisalex is not there to complicate your life, and that's one of their best qualities. But it doesn't take much time to go through their work either, and realise that your ears might still be hungry for more…
Unfortunately, The Anachim Thorn sounds like it has no particular goal or message, apart from being as serene as a vegetable. It is perfect for any ambient purpose, but it doesn't have enough fuel to reach the mind. It's still pretty pleasant, but I'm hungry for more.
From Invisible Youth Review:
This is the jam! By far the best stuff that they have done. This canadian keyboard duo did a great job at capturing the sound that they wanted. It is a psychedelic feel with lots of movement and at the same time lots of solitude! Just a nice mix of electronic soundscapes and beats to put you in another state of mind. The jams on here are a step and a half above the previous stuff they recorded. So if you liked them before, you will go crazy over this. If you never liked them or electronic music, this is your second chance to enjoy the jams!
I have mixed feelings about this release. The first time hearing it I really couldn't stand it. It's synthpop hell. There is so much overuse of synth on this album it's uncanny. On many tracks I think if they could just get rid of the synth it might be a rather nice song.
I really hate giving independent artists a bad review so I decided to look into them a bit more. Upon reading the dossier I find that Hellothisisalex is comprised of two Canadians (neither of them named Alex) - Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey. Their list of favorite artists include: Brian Wilson, Cibo Matto, Pink Floyd, Cornelius, Air, and Radiohead. The dossier states that; "Hellothisisalex is an electronic pop duo that draws their influences from the 'big' 1960s-1970s psychedelic pop crowd. Songwriters like Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett sit among their favorites." Now, with that said (or rather 'read') I've gone back for a second listen. So, if psychedelic pop is what they're going for then they've definitely achieved it. Couple that with their listed favorites and influences and the idea of what they're after begins to become clearer. What set me off really is finding these artists and receiving music from them on two seperate occasions via the IDM List. You'd think music sent to the IDM list would have at least some sort of IDM base.
The one standout track on this album however is #6 - "Dinner at a restaurant". This is a lovely journey through French cuisine. The beats are crunchy, the melody is flutey, and the atmospherics accompany the song nicely.
From track6 however it's immediately back to the heavy synth songs. This style of music is definitely not my cup of tea. After a while I just have to turn it off. There's only so much synth I can take before I lose it.
My opinion of this album is that although not terrible, it's not all that great. Really, aside from the fact that they are specifically trying to creating this kind of music I don't know why they don't just get rid of the synth and leave the melodies and beats to guide you through an otherwise enjoyable album.
The anachim thorn is an exercise in disturbing minimal noise with occasional swells of synthesized sound that startle and surprise. This album is a bit of a departure for me as reviewer because it's entirely instrumental, and I have long been known for my love affair with the human voice. Appreciating the subtleties of an instrumental album requires a perspective shift.
The track listing indicates 11 distinct songs, but in reality, the whole plays like one long musical interlude that fades in and out. Changes in pitch and tempo signal the transitions from one song to another. Throbbing frequencies grow louder by imperceptible degrees until they're echoing in your head.
hellothisisalex, who are a duo consisting of Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey, are often referred to as David Lynchesque for the low key, yet insinuating uneasy quality of their music. This album won't grab your attention, but play it often enough, and you might just find it lurking in corners of your mind. -Steph
From Wetworks E-zine:
Hellothisisalex is a Canadian duo made up of Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey from Ontario. The 11 track album "The Anachim Thorn" is their second full-length release and follow-up to "The Acorn Children." Using subtle and child-like melodies (ala Boards Of Canada) and the complex quirkiness of bands like Thine Eyes, Hellothisisalex blends a fascinating mix of IDM, Pop and Electronica that has captivated my ears from start to finish.
My favorite tracks on "The Anachim Thorn" include "Dinner At A Restaurant," the warm analog sounds of "Juliette" and "Outside In The Cold The School Lights Burn Bright." The latter sounding like a percussive jam session of jazzy drum loops and sparkling electronics.
Hellothisisalex has a magnificent grasp on creating interesting and abstract melodies and drum loops that always keep you interested. I believe Hellothisisalex has released a follow-up to "The Anachim Thorn" on Piehead Records but I've yet to hear it. Regardless, this is one band to watch for in the future. If you're looking for warm analog synths blended with deep IDM melodies and pop sensibility, look no further than Hellothisisalex. Reviewed by: GunHed
From Vital Weekly:
Behind Hellothisisalex we find two young Canadians who are in love with their analogue equipment, mainly synths and synths and also synths fed with an occassional drummachine. They have been around for some 18 months now and have produced some work, but this is their second full length, well clocking in at 34 minutes. The two have a tendency to write short songs with quirky up temp beats and synths that roll along nicely. Cute little pop melodies really that would fit along the robotic lines of anything on Suction Records (might that be a coincidence that they are from Canada too?) or most of the music put forward by Morr Music. There isn't a particular stand out track here, but they all have the same good quality. Very well done. (Frans de Waard)
From Incursion Music Review:
This is my first exposure to the duo of Melissa Creasey and Mark Prier, better known as hellothisisalex. the canadian spelling program (yes, these folks are from Canada!) is their second full length release, and even so this release is only 34 minutes in length. But there are 13 tracks here, chock full of analogue synths, cheesy melodies and quirky rhythms. It's all happy music (there are very few shadows to contend with here) with charming, naive melodies and mostly uptempo rhythms. It's music that wouldn't feel out of place on Morr Music or even Rephlex. There are no sudden shifts or changes of direction, no real surprises once you have listened to the first few tracks, but the tracks are nicely assembled and together make for a very cool record to enjoy when the mood is light and the sun is shining. (Richard di Santo)
If it is possible to encapsulate youthful innocence and lack of trend following savvy into music, hellothisisalex comes very close. Sweet, light-hearted Casio tones are coupled with the dated, yet warm and lush sound of Moog synthesisers, which may have been the cutting edge of sound 20 or 30 years ago but now seems charmingly dated and quite quirky. I must admit rolling my eyes and being taken a little aback when I first heard this CD, but got into it within a few seconds. hellothisisalex is Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey, who seem to be composing soundtracks to their innocuous lives with songs like "Deep River, Ontario," "Television, My Lazy Brother" and "Working In a Small Tape Store." the canadian spelling program would best be appreciated by those that want something different from IDM and 4/4 dance music. In this case, a quirky musical foray into warped synth-pop via keyboards and other musical machines. (I. Khider)
From All-Music Guide:
Hellothisisalex’s follow-up to the 2001 full-length debut The Anachim Thorn came out as part of the Canadian label Piehead’s 2002 series, 11 CD-R albums each limited to 311 copies. Melissa Creasey and Mark Prier have refined their music a little more, pushing toward melody without losing their experimental edge. The Canadian Spelling Program packs 13 cuts in 34 minutes. The pace, tongue-in-cheek attitude and analog electronics recall Helgoland, the simplicity and childlike naivete of some of the melodies evoke the music of Felix Kubin and Nova Huta — in any case we are in European neo-analog electro-pop land, making Hellothisisalex an unusual outfit by North-American standards. Yet, the music is by no mean derivative, it has its own quirky, irresistible identity and achieves a nice, accessible balance between immediate retro-feel melodies and left-field arrangements. Only a couple of tracks fall into the mediocre category (“In a Heartbeat” and “Royal Perennial” in particular). Everything else is pure intelligent entertainment, the kind of bedroom-producer techno tracks you can enjoy without feeling ridiculous. You listen to this album with a smile on your face simply because these melodies make the sun appear brighter. — François Couture
From Minty Magazine:
Melodic & catchy lounge-breaks for those chillum days of vintage analogue phantasises: IDM magick when Plaid is too upbeat and Boards of Canada too melancholic. It's like Batman! Hit me with the soundbytes: Soft snowflake doo-wop for the digeratti! Doo-crop electro boogie from this dynamic duo of Crazy Canucks! Yes indeed, Mark & Melissa craft a lovely crop of mellow songs, ripe for baking your friends. As witnessed at Mutek 2002, hellothisisalex run the Warp-IDM standard through a Canadian weird-filter. The result is somewhere between sampling Bob & Doug Mackenzie's "BottleCap Song" and Rita McNeil strung across 4 octaves. -- Tobias V.
From Vital Weekly:
Hellothisisalex is a young electronic duo from Canada, consisting of Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey, who both share a strong love of analogue synthesizers, as well as 'pots, pans, plates, voices, guitar, melodica, saxophone and clock radio.' Not that's easy to hear all of this, but I'm sure it's somewhere in there. Hellothisisalex like their pop to be electro. The album is inspired by fires that raged in the early 20th century across the river from Hull, Quebec to Ottawa, Ontaria [sic]. This may explain just a little bit the somewhat darker tone that hoovers [sic]around in the nine tracks on this release. A somewhat somber tone on this album, which has mid-tempo electro songs, fuzzy analogue sounds coming from likewise buzzing synthesizers. Nicely executed, Hellothisisalex could have been released by Suction Records or maybe some of the older Morr Music releases. Despite their young history, Hellothisisalex managed to deliver a nice album of mildly somber tracks, without getting too gloom and doom, but inventive enough. (Frans de Waard)
From We love musique:
Across The River Twin is the new release by Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey, the duo more widely known as hellothisisalex. The two are originally from small-town Ontario but are currently based in Corner Brook, Newfoundland where they continue their love affair of infusing pop music with experimental audio.
The new album was originally inspired by the fires that raged along the Ottawa River between Hull and Ottawa during the early 20th Century, which is referenced in the titles of the album and the song "A Fire Carried By Hot Winds." Intended as an homage to Upper and Lower Canada, Across The River Twin was recorded unhurriedly over a year and a half between early 2003 and the summer of 2004, resulting in nine short pieces of lovely electronic pop brimming with their signature soft melodies and groovy electro beats. Some gems to be found here include "The Beauty Queen Waves Goodbye" and "Home Is As Near As The Telephone" which bring the album to an end perfectly. The album is actually a limited edition of only 150 copies, and each one is packaged in a handmade pouch with sewn-in photo inserts. The Alectric Audio website offers free downloads of two of the songs from the album as well as other music by hellothisisalex.
V/A -40 (C0C0S0L1DC1T1 / Cargo UK)
-40 était un projet ambitieux, à l'image du label qui cherche toujours à faire le lien entre son et image. L'objet est original, reprenant la couverture d'un livre, et renfermant deux disques, un CD et un DVD, ainsi qu'un livret bilingue (français/anglais) riche en explications quant aux travaux des artistes présentés. Le projet consistait à travailler à partir de films de propagande des années 40 sélectionnés parmi les archives de l'Office National du Film du Canada. Les musiciens devaient composer une nouvelle bande son au documentaire, et les vidéastes créer une nouvelle vidéo en gardant la même bande son. Un moyen de donner une relecture, une vision moderne de ces images du passés.
Sur le CD, on trouve dix morceaux, avec parmi les "stars", Secret Mommy, Akufen, Lowfish, Deadbeat ou encore Venetian Snares. Point important, les artistes ont généralement composé de véritables morceaux qui peuvent être écouté indépendamment des images. En le parcourant dans l'ordre, on commence par découvrir Knifehandchop qui, comme la plupart des artistes, garde une part de la bande son d'origine, dont les voix, qu'il découpe en suivant le tempo et les effets de syncope de sa rythmique. Secret Mommy comme a son habitude produit une musique très hachée mais toujours efficace, aux mélodies subtiles et effets donnant l'impression que la bande est en mauvais état. Meek travaille sur les rythmiques, un peu à la manière d'Autechre mais en plus sage et sans mettre de côté l'aspect mélodique puis Akufen reste dans son domaine en utilisant les sons d'époque comme une composante essentielle de sa musique. Le décalage est alors intéressant, entre son rétro et minimal techno.
Autre très belle découverte, Prhizzm semble inspiré par Biosphere avec son ambient polaire en guise d'introduction, avant d'évoluer vers une electronica fine, sensuelle et racée. Le hip-hop de DJ Dopey est lui aussi assez surprenant. Outre la rythmique propre au genre et ses classiques scratchs, la mélodie mélancolique surprend, donne l'impression d'être issue du film original, puis retraitée, fracturée, hachée. On retrouve ensuite Lowfish avec un plaisir presque honteux. Ses sonorités nous replongent directement dans les années 80 et se mêlent habilement aux bips de radars du film. La transition se fait assez bien avec l'intro du morceau de Hellothisisalex, mais ceux-ci évoluent bien vite vers une électro-poppy bariolée, chaotique, aux sonorités kitsch saturées. Pour finir, deux valeurs sûres, avec Deadbeat et son dub soyeux, puis Venetian Snares qui nous surprend avec un morceau arythmique et proche d'une musique classique contemporaine.
Sur le DVD se trouvent 20 plages. Les dix premières correspondent aux morceaux que l'on vient d'évoquer, que l'on peut donc voir avec les images d'origine. C'est peut-être là la partie la plus intéressante du projet, puisque l'on obtient alors une nouvelle compréhension de ces morceaux. On en saisit toute la gravité (camps de canadiens de descendance japonaise pour Meek, enfants réfugiés pour DJ Dopey), on s'extasie sur l'interaction entre son et image (Secret Mommy) ou sur la façon dont l'artiste est parvenu à reproduire l'ambiance du film (Prhizzm), et nos a priori tombent quand on croyait Lowfish complètement décalé alors qu'il parvient plutôt habilement à rendre la tension d'une bataille navale. Mais pour conclure, c'est Venetian Snares qui nous cloue le bec : le film sur lequel il travaillait traitait de la chirurgie esthétique et de son apport pour rendre un visage humain aux blessés de guerre. Dans ce film, des soldats blessés assistent à un concert de piano. La musique contemporaine de Venetian Snares apparaît alors comme une déformation de ce concert de piano, à l'image des visages difformes de ces soldats.
Les vingt autres pistes correspondent donc à des travaux de vidéastes qui remixent en quelque sorte le film d'origine tout en gardant la bande son d'époque. On n'évoquera pas tous les artistes ici, mais on retiendra dans l'ordre le travail de David Lemieux pour son mélange de techniques (dessin ligne claire, abstractions sensuelles et colorées, enrichissement du film d'origine), puis Josh Raskin qui nous offre un film étonnant que l'on pourrait tout aussi bien situer dans les années 40 qu'à notre époque : il utilise des techniques modernes parfaitement visibles, mais généralement dans le but de reproduire des éléments et effets du passé. Le résultat est étonnant, déconcertant, et colle parfaitement à ce film sur la recherche atomique. Creatrix, pseudo artistique d'Erin Lewis, a choisi le décalage et l'humour avec sa palette graphique en parsemant un documentaire sur la bataille pour le pétrole de petites fleurs, d'arc en ciel, de soleil, et affublant un personnage de cornes et d'une queue de diable. On finira ici avec Cinétik, pseudo de Frédéric St-Hilaire, qui parsème le film original d'abstractions graphiques rouge-orangées, entre le filtre complexe et le tableau de Mondrian.
Il s'agit certainement là du travail le plus aboutit du label franco-anglo-canadien, tout en restant d'une approche relativement facile en comparaison à quelques unes de leurs productions. Hautement recommandé !!
Fabrice Allard le 15/08/2005
From Chain D.L.K.:
4 out of 5 Stars
Malissa [sic] Creasey and Mark Prier are a Canadian duo who releases music with the Hellothisisalex moniker. The duo is also active with their online record label called Alectric (it was a CDr label before deciding to go online only). Their latest release is titled THE STUMP ACT and it is a limited edition CDr (only 125 copy) containing 10 tracks of minimal electronic pop. Don’t ask me why it has been released on CD even if the label is now mainly online. It is probable that the releases of Hello This Is Alex will be also released as CDrs and the other bands releases are going directly online. Anyway… From their press sheet I read that THE STUMP ACT project [was] born from a trip on Ontario's Yonge Street, 1,896 km from the shores of Lake Ontario to the US-Canada border at Rainy River, not far from Manitoba. Along the way, they put up twenty rectangular wooden signs depicting tree stumps, dividing the street into twenty sections. ... Their electronic pop short experiments succeeds into giving to the audience the same sensation of discover and melancholy that a travel could give. Sometimes they sound like an alien combo playing with Atari and a tracker program (the first version of samples sequencer) but their music has feelings and if you love bands like The Books you could also dig Hellothisisalex. (Maurizio Pustianaz)
From Textura (December 2006):
Stump Act is a sweet 20-minute EP of electronic pop instrumentals by hellothisisalex (Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador-based Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey). Each of the ten two-minute vignettes immediately segues into the next, making the ride seem as continuous as the 2004 summer road trip that inspired the release. The two drove the entire length of Ontario's Yonge Street (1,896 km from the shores of Lake Ontario at Toronto to Rainy River, not far from Manitoba) and put up twenty wooden signs depicting tree stumps along the way, effectively dividing the street into twenty sections (Yonge Street was originally a narrow, twisting trail dotted with ugly tree stumps and treacherous holes, which prompted the establishment of an 1800-era Stump Act that demanded that anyone found guilty of public drunkenness should be charged with removing a tree stump).
The music itself is jubilant instrumental synth-pop that might be likened to a Solvent-Isan fusion. The ten cuts are intricately layered, ultra-melodic vignettes dominated by bright synthesizer melodies and buzzing bass lines; even better, they're almost entirely free of ponderousness. Subtle differences in character and mood abound, from the lightly funky swing of “Haunt the Bear” and the slightly more aggressive “A Year of Eating Dangerously” to the rather melancholy “A Little Girl's Taxidermy” wherein a lonely melodica calls out over sparkling tinkles and a roving bass line. Apparently, hellothisisalex is working on a release entitled The Other Coast which suggests that the duo will connect it in some thematic manner to British Columbia and Vancouver.
From Vital Weekly:
With considerable long intervals, Hellothisisalex present their releases to the world. 'The Canadian Spelling Program' was released on Piehead (see Vital Weekly 321) and themselves they released 'Across The River Twin' (see Vital Weekly 461). It's still a duo of Mark Prier and Melissa Creasey and 'The Stump Act' is part of a bigger art project. For this project the [sic] drove the entire length of Yonge Street, 1896 kilometers from the shores of Lake Ontario to the US-Canada border at Rainy River. Along the way, they put up twenty rectangular wooden signs depicting tree stumps. The street has had military significance - a north-south route. The stumps refer to a penalty for public drunkenness: who was caught had to remove one. Hence the title. In just under twenty minutes, Hellothisisalex present ten tracks of what is now their trademark sound: analogue synths hiss and generate a fat sound of quirky uptempo songs, that sometimes seem to start right in the middle, rather than having a finished off beginning and end. It's a bit less sombre than 'Across The River Twin', but there are still faint traces of things melancholic, but there is at the same time also the robotic cheerfulness of electro music. The shortness is a bit of a pity, but it gives the short album also an extra strength: too much is no good either. (Frans de Waard)
From Some Wicked:
Exciting new Canadian electronica act, hellothisisalex has released their new album, the accidentals, using a blend of 8-bit video game music (think Commodore 64 or the Atari 2600) and moog patches, or chipcore, as their inspiration, similar to other bands using this sonic footprint such as Crystal Castles, Tobacco, and Black Moth Super Rainbow. I’d count Plone in there as well, recently made famous by none other than that Reese’s Peanut Buttercup commercial that ran all summer, taking us back to the days when patches on a keyboard were literally patched together by cables, not a button you could just push to change the “patch.”
Entirely instrumental, with smatterings of vocal samples and other creative digitalis, the album ranges from downtempo and chill to upbeat and fun to downright avant-garde. One listen isn’t nearly enough to catch all of the varied nuances this thrilling piece of electronica has to offer. Some tracks may stand out more than others, but the accidentals needs to be listened to with all the senses, like appreciating a fine wine or exotic cheese. You can’t get all the flavors in one bite. It goes deeper, and all the songs work together like an elaborately patched quilt (pun intended.)
A word of warning: it’s not a four-on-the-floor party starter, but I can imagine today’s DJs remixing their tunes for the club. (Dashiell Brown) Original review page here.
From The Scope:
Hellothisisalex is an electronic duo formerly of Corner Brook fame who now live in dirty old Ontario. The duo’s new album is a light, fizzy concoction of 8-bit analogue beeps and bloops with playful jaunty melodies. Many of the song titles reference Newfoundland locales such as “On the shore of Walden Pond” or “Blackpoll Party at Lobster Cove Head” but the tunes are more prone to elicit thoughts of Konami games instead of lobster pots or heritage sites—although the fog horn sample in “The Paper House” does set a bit of a nautical scene. The retro Gameboy tones are kept pretty dry throughout, and the bass-deficient buzz of the keys can grate the ears after a while, especially to those of us who are sick of the ubiquitous 1980s Nintendo nostalgia music circuit, a la Dan Deacon. But there is enough enthusiasm and invention present on this short offering to make it worth your while. (Patrick Canning)
Following up on their 2006 EP The Stump Act, Melissa Creasey and Mark Prier return with a new hellothisisalex collection, a half-hour mini-album of ten whimsical electro-pop tracks collectively christened The Accidentals. The so-called ‘new-school analogue kids from smalltown Ontario' (and currently Peterborough residents) fill their jaunty vignettes with so many catchy melodies, they could probably fill a second album. The duo started the group in 2001, performed at MUTEK in 2002, and have released three albums (The Anachim Thorn, The Canadian Spelling Program, Across The River Twin), and so are clearly experienced practitioners. If push came to shove, one might characterize the hellothisisalex sound as somewhat of a Solvent-Marumari hybrid with a dash of Lullatone irreverence thrown in for good measure.
Their emphasis on analogue synthesizer melodies gives their music its polished and pristine sheen, and the album includes a few bird-related songs (e.g., “Birdtalk”) that reflect Creasey's area of academic study (she's currently writing her Master's of Science thesis on Black-throated blue warblers). “Sorry” gets us started with a melancholy little overture of synth flutter and breakbeats, after which “Tablelands” splatters its lilting trip-hop with synthetic fuzz. “The Paper Horse” frames tinkling melodies and the pitter-patter of shuffling drum beats with the lonely whistle of a distant train and a barking dog, while “Good Morning, White Throat! / Goodnight, Swift!” offers an uncharacteristically frenetic swirl of lop-sided beats and off-kilter melodies. “In the Clutches of the Saw-whet Owl” does in three minutes what another group might take three times as long to do. Labyrinthine in nature, the entrancing song channel-surfs between lulling rhythms and wistful waltz tempi like it's the most natural thing in the world. In the multi-layered closer “In Her Head, It's a Symphony, in Her Hands, a Guitar,” saxophones huff and puff alongside arcade synth flourishes before the electronics vanish, leaving a campfire romp of harmonica and vocals in its wake. You'll find precious little po-faced posing on The Accidentals, as Creasey and Prier—as serious as they no doubt are when it comes to their craft—keep the mood refreshingly light.
November 2009. Original review found here.
Hellothisisalex is the Canadian duo of Melissa and Mark. I was fortunate enough to discover their music a few months ago, and I have been consistently impressed by their catchy, fun brand of instrumental electronic music. They are a very interesting and talented musical outfit with an intriguing story. I recently spoke to Mark about the duo's sound and their illustrious history....
1. Please tell us about the formation of Hellothisisalex. How did you guys meet?
We met through mutual acquaintances while we were still in high school—we even played together in concert and jazz bands. We didn’t start making music together right away, though, that happened two or three years later. All said and done, we’ve been making music together for about ten years.
2. How would you describe your music?
We most frequently trot out the term instrumental electro-pop. We are unabashedly electronic and unabashedly pop.
3. You describe your music on your MySpace page as “non-linear”. There seems to be a very fluid, organic quality to the music. Are many of the songs created through improvisation?
They are—we’ll play around with sounds and patterns for a while, trying to draw out the most complementary sounds and phrases, and then we’ll try out a basic arrangement. Once that’s in place, we’ll usually record what we have so far and just mess around on top of the recording. Eventually, something more concrete forms, but it takes an awful lot of improvisation to get there. For the past couple of years, this has usually meant one of us improvising at a time while the other is out of the room.
4. What gear do you use?
We have a pair of Korg Electribes (ER-1 & EA-1) that we use for percussion, bass and lead. We round them out by blasting an Akai AX60, a Korg MS2000, and a Roland Juno-1 overtop of them. Occasionally we tuck a saxophone, a melodica, an acoustic guitar, and an old clock radio into the spaces. Until a couple months ago, we recorded all this mess on to a Pentium III computer. Sadly, ol’ faithful has more or less passed on.
5. What is it like being an electronic act in Newfoundland? Are you the only electronic band in Corner Brook?
It can feel very lonely. There’s not a whole lot of electronic music being made in the province, and what little is made is hard to find. In Corner Brook there are a couple of other electronic acts, mostly all students at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. (Full disclosure: we also recently moved back to Ontario)
6. Who are your influences?
Our influences are equal parts sound art and 60s pop, with a particular emphasis on anything ‘fun’. That’s about all we agree on, and it’s what really brought us together musically way back when. Outside those two areas, our tastes tend to diverge.
7. You mentioned online that you have done some live performing. Do you get a great deal of enjoyment from performing live, or do you prefer to work in the studio?
We do enjoy performing live, but it happens very rarely. When we lived in Toronto, it certainly happened much more often. This period had a big influence on us—it broke us out of our isolation in our home studio and made us feel accountable about being able to present our music in a live format. In the last five years we’ve become more hermit-like again, and we’re re-discovering the freedom to just record as many parts as the song calls for, whether or not it can be approximated or re-created live. We’re only two people, but we have tendency to want to write parts for six or seven.
8. What brought you from Ontario to the east coast? How would you compare the music scenes in either areas?
Melissa decided to go to school at Memorial University’s campus in Corner Brook. Mark followed along. We both had a blast over the five years that we were there.
The music scenes are really similar in many ways—they are both dominated by music ultimately labeled rock and urban—even if the scale is different. The main difference between the two is probably the high volume of traditional music being made on the east coast. That said, the east coast seems to have a higher proportion of its population making music, even if that still translates to less musicians than you find in Ontario. There’s just something in the water out east that speaks in musical notes.
9. I noticed that you re-scored an old National Film Board film called “the New North.” How did this project come about?
“The New North” came about as the result of an open call put out by Terminus 1525, C0C0S0L1DC1T1 and the NFB. They were looking for musicians and sound artists to remix the sound from old NFB films, and video artists to remix the visuals. We applied and were successful. We had a great time working on the project.
10. Speaking of film, many people feel that electronic music naturally has a very visual quality. Do you agree?
Music, especially instrumental music, makes a challenge to the imagination—“Hey you! Accompany these sounds with some imagery!” I think that’s why instrumental music is so often paired with film and video. The words and lyrics don’t get involved and inform the context. Much of our music was inspired by memories, dreams and events from our own lives, which we then try to translate into the sound textures and mood of the music. It’s a vicious, but rewarding, cycle.
11. What is on the horizon for hellothisisalex?
We have another bunch of music on the horizon, for sure. We’ve been very carefully finishing our most recent album ‘The Accidentals’, and it’s due out any moment now in digital format. Once that’s out, we’ll be concentrating on entirely new material. We’re really excited about it because we’ve been working on ‘The Accidentals’ for so long now. We have no idea what the next album will be about, but we like the title ‘The Grey Country.’ (Full disclosure: we previously liked the title ‘The Other Coast’ and nothing came of that, so who knows…)
12. Please tell me about a film, book, artist or song that really had a profound impact on your life.
Early on, we both got into David Lynch’s work in a big way. We’re huge Twin Peaks fans, and we really like his films. Lynch has an attention to details, both audio and visual, that few other artists possess.
13. Where can interested people purchase your music?
Our albums are easily found in digital format in the iTunes stores online, as well as at CDBaby (www.cdbaby.com). If people prefer the physical format, CDBaby and The Blue House (www.thebluehouse.org) are excellent places to look.
Our newest album, ‘The Accidentals,’ will be available really soon only in digital format at iTunes and CDBaby, so watch out for that.
(Gary Flanagan) Original interview page here.