Alter- is two styles of electronica experiments interspersed on a single release, “Alter-Rate” and “Alter-Scape”.
There are six numbered “Alter-Rate” pieces, which take relatively simple minimal techno sounds- soft kicks and hits, light percussive sounds and modular synthesis pulses and waves- and then bend their time signatures and rhythm patterns, not just a little bit a lot, glitching and spontaneously adjusting them so that none of the traditional 4/4 root pattern can be discerned. They are skittish, never sitting at one arrangement for very long. At times, such as the latter half of “Alter-Rate 3” or the somewhat Aphex Twin-ish “Alter-Rate 7”, they are frantic, chaotic affairs, while at others, such as the first half of “Alter-Rate 2”, they are more spacious and gentle- the unpredictable bubbling of the latter sounding a little like a playful old Radiophonic Workshop analogue sketch piece, but with a lot more sub-bass.
(A notable exception to the above is “Alter-Rate 6”, which spends several minutes in a surprisingly regular and 4/4 minimal techno formation, to mix things up a bit.)
Conversely, the four “Alter-Scape” pieces are described as ‘ambient’, but they still have an inherent rhythm. However it is true that they are far more static, providing a regular breathing pattern that ends up serving as an interlude between the irregular offerings of the “Alter-Rate”s. There’s a distantly industrial feel to “Alter-Scape 3” that eschews the more relaxed side of ambient and which I’d primarily describe as drone, while “Alter-Scape 4” has that more typical melodic tone to it.
There’s high-concept art theory behind this album’s approach to time and sound, and appropriately, much of the sound here feels like it belongs in a live context or, even better, an installation, surrounding you from all sides and tied in with other stimuli. As an hour-long home listen, you would be more advised to ignore the descriptive references to ‘club music’, grab some headphones, turn the lights off and dive in. It’s not revolutionary but it’s head-bending enough to make it worth the dive.