Life Underwater needs a little air

Life Underwater
Laurelle & Alexander (2012)
Boom Ting Recordings

Reviewed by Andrea Routley

Laurelle & Alexander’s debut-EP lives up to its name, with wet sounds of electric guitar and piano, and a synthesized wash to flood the remaining space, from gurgling, and in utero-like heart beats, to gulping bass details. Self-described as “Hippies with Computers,” they are clearly the west-coast variety; their saturated sound reflects the biodensity of coastal rainforest, and the submerged feeling of life under a canopy of grey cloud.

Life Underwater offers listeners five songs, two remixes, and an instrumental interlude called “Dream Wave,” a full-on hippy number, complete with the sound of the ocean waves lapping on the shore. And all of this is free to listeners. Every track contains an array of instrument sounds, yet they never feel cluttered. But the tracks that stand out for me are the ones that parse these sounds the most. They give me a chance to surface from the blur—after all, life may be underwater, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to breathe. Laurelle’s dry, breathy vocal tone and soprano range has a subtle forcefulness to it that could have cut through the damp and saved many of these tracks from drowning, but it is submerged in vocal effects: reverberating and far away, it’s lost in the wash.

Still, there are some stellar tunes on here, and any fan of ambient electronic will love this EP. “Moon Kids” has the catchiest melody, with a little retro 80s mellow-rock guitar that’ll make you feel like pretending you were actually cool in the 80s (or even alive). (How I wish this great melodic hook didn’t disappear after the first 45 seconds!).  And my personal favourite, “Lost Stardust,” because who doesn’t love a snare drum? And why do I love that snare so much? Because the presence of that one sound does so much to balance out this slippery sonic slope, giving my ear a little traction.

Laurelle & Alexander are currently working on a full-length album, Across Oceans, to be released later this year. I’m excited about what this talented pair will deliver, but hoping they’ll remember to breathe.

Fun Game: How many water puns can you count?


Andrea Routley is a writer and musician based in Victoria, BC. Reviewing other people’s music makes her nervous about what people will say about her upcoming album, “After We’re Here.”