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Insomnia in “Blessing” by Alex G

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It might seem like there could be no one more dissimilar to Alex Giannascoli than the over-serious misanthrope.

And yet, when I sit down with “Blessing”—the lead single to the Philadelphian’s upcoming album God Save the Animals, out September 23—I can’t help but recall an aphorism by Emil Cioran, the great Romanian Pessimist: “Getting up in the middle of the night,” he writes, “I walked around my room with the certainty of being chosen and criminal, a double privilege to the sleepless, revolting or incomprehensible for the captives of daytime logic.”

Unlikely partners as they may be, I think Cioran and Giannascoli, who describes writing “Blessing” while unable to sleep, have stumbled upon a similar idea.

“Blessing” opens with an insomnious blaring, at once restless, psychedelic, and steeped in dread. In what feels like a musical non-sequitur, the noise disperses into a sturdy drum groove that, unaccompanied by a melody, feels like the equivalent of a section being left blank. Or, more accurately, the section feels simultaneously written and unwritten, as we don’t even have the luxury of being grounded in a time and place. Suspended, we’re finally brought back to earth by an anchoring bassline that could be described as devious. The groove invites Alex’s whispered vocals in a first verse overlaid with sporadic Mortal Kombat-esque grunts.

It’s hard to shock an audience so accustomed to experimentation, but “Blessing” is surely Giannascoli’s most perplexing release to date.

If you didn’t know better, it could even be tempting to dismiss the song off-hand as the work of an amateur. But what is at first mistakable becomes clearer with each listen: the song is very deliberate. It’s not weird out of mere quirk; rather, the song is only as strange or eccentric as the emotion it’s expressing—an inquisition of wakefulness which it renders faithfully. It’s for this reason, I think, that the project doesn’t sound like a departure from Alex G’s sound, but an expedition to the very heart of it.

As in much of Alex G’s work, there is a real despair lurking beyond the track’s good humor. Detached from the crude intellect and guided by a purer sense of creativity, Giannascoli arrives at a sound both spanning and enclosed not unreminiscent of the delirious intellectual criminal pacing his quarters during the morning. Cioran speaks of a lucidity born of delirium which, perhaps, is not just a fringe emotion, but a fringe aspect of reality, the insight of a genuine truth which shows itself only to the sleepless.

Delicately, Cioran is exalted as much as depressed; if Alex G shrouds despair in playfulness, Cioran shrouds playfulness is despair.

The two are far from identical, but perhaps there is more of the Pessimist in Alex G than meets the eye—and more of Alex G in the Pessimist.

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