The Alternating Currents NŪN is an eclectic album sweeping between country ballads, alternative rock and psychedelic atmospheres. The music is emotional steeped in love and loss. It transitions between singer songwriter sparseness to complex layers of sound and overdriven textures. The listener is kept on edge with a variety of instrumentation, quiet to loud dynamics, and a diverse mix of musical genres. This tension lends a hint of madness, a bipolar swing of feelings to express the inner experience of grief from love lost. NŪN is unique and could put some listeners off but a deep dive into the lyrics and meaning of the music reveals a well crafted expression of raw emotion that is deeply personal.
The Alternating Currents NŪN hit the shelves on October 2nd 2020 on RERERERE RECORDS on gatefold 2LP Vinyl, cassette and DL.
The Alternating Currents are from Oakland, California and NŪN is the debut album. The band started in 2016 with the core members Ruben Diaz on vocals, guitars and keys with percussionist Joe Miller. In 2017 they established their current line-up with Augustus DeVandry on lead guitar and Eric Park on bass. Inspired by The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, and Television they have a diverse range of musical tastes. Diaz decided on the name NŪN because:
“NŪN is the Egyptian creation myth, an island of consciousness that rose out of a chaotic primordial sea. This record arrived that way… It’s the depths of tragedy and grief that we can truly see what the baseline of our lives is, and I hope that the album might be able to do some good right now.”
Infused into the country ballad foundations is a rich atmosphere of art rock and psychedelic atmospheres. The guitar duo drives the songs forward with continuous melodic lead guitar over the transparent tones of the rhythm guitar. The process of build-up and release in the songs gives it pop and the ending of many songs become experimental and dense. The production on the vocals has psychedelic reverb and echo splashing into the depths.
The first single is “Invasive Daisies” a rocking song with experimental energy and driven treble boost guitars. The music video is psychedelic with pink hills and fast cuts; it enhances the power of the song. The fuzz guitar lead is one of the most intense on the album and is a spectacular example of their rock sensibilities.
A highlight on the album is the lyrical content. The liner notes list all the lyrics and it’s like reading a personal journal of surreal poetry designed to capture moments of inexpressible light and darkness. The symbols, metaphors, and images in the lyrics have intention and meaning and are beautifully poetic. This example is from the end of “Alone We Are Stars”
“Go to sleep and you’ll find a way
Holding you, we impress the waves
How the love pools around
Through our hands
In armies of light and sound
You’re lying still upon the Earth
I gaze upon you now
Here in our dreams we are free
Nothing to hold you and me
Alone we are stars in the sky
Never pass me by”
The packaging for the album is very well done from RERERERE RECORDS. The cover art is by Ruben Diaz and is a collage displaying a man with an electrical neurological helmet with a little man on his shoulder wrestling a large animal and an ocean sunset background. The vinyl edition is 2 discs both 45 RPM, black in color and the final disc ends on an infinite loop that sounds like an alarm from early Pink Floyd. The gatefold sleeve is high gloss and looks clean and vintage. The interior is a black and white theme with band pics and a page of lyrics.
Overall, The Alternating Currents have released a strong debut that is artistic and personal. Diaz is the creative drive for the band making the artwork, lyrics and laying the foundational pieces for the songs. This gives the album a cohesiveness despite the wide spectrum of music on NŪN. The vocals are very raw and gritty at times; the guitars can feel wandering; the percussion can be outside the box and the dense song endings are in contrast to the opening of the compositions; it gives the music distress and edginess. These qualities are intentional and tied to the essential emotions shared on the album and emotions are not always beautiful, restrained or predictable. There are parts of the album which will be too exposed for many people’s ear and darkness portrayed can make for an unsettled listening experience. NŪN also has bright moments like stars shining in the darkness and these sections feel more wonderful in the context of the album. It does not pretend to be anything other than the honest embodiment of love and grief.