Detroit’s Alluvial Fans beautifully deposits raw and refined musical sediments on their solid new album, Earth to Astronaut.
Out now via all streaming platforms, Earth to Astronaut freely flows through indie rock mountains, art punk hills and garage jazz canyons to form a new fertile sound. Through these multi-genre peaks and valleys, atypical song structures and varied tempos, Alluvial Fans’ second album deeply explores the spaces between distorted, mosh-worthy cathartic freak-outs and quiet, sentimental and reflective moments.
“Sometimes your mind goes, and you find yourself jumping from place to place. And that’s sort of how my mind was working at the time and how it has been just kind of scattershot, and now I’m more aware of that. I wanted to represent that kind of fragmented or abstract thought in the lyrics, and in sum, I wanted to become more precise,” said Drew Bartosik, Alluvial Fans’ vocalist-guitarist.
“For the past two years, I’ve been practicing meditation and trying to become more self-aware and mindful of my thoughts and how I act in my environment. Things now are becoming more focused and cohesive for song ideas, and I wanted to highlight the vulnerability in that respect.”
Bartosik and his Alluvial Fans bandmates Gilad Granot (bass) and Ollie Elkus (drums) venture deep beneath the Earth to Astronaut surface to examine a juxtaposition of themes, including technology and nature, independence and interdependence, and reflection, solidarity, and devotion, over 10 expansive, metaphysical tracks.
From ‘Blowouts’ to ‘Droves’
Together, they weave an erratic, yet refreshing jazz-punk-garage-rock fusion on their latest single, “Blowout/Future Games,” which starts with light cymbal taps and delicate electric guitar and quickly erupts into a frantic musical cataclysm.
During the “Blowout” section, Bartosik eagerly shouts, “Yeah!/You never look me in the eyes these days/You’re so far gone/You’re so far” and memorably repeats, “Two for my friends/One for myself.” The first half also serves as a scintillating ode to the Detroit-Hamtramck indie rock scene.
Next, “Blowout” seamlessly segues to the mellow, thoughtful “Future Games” section with light drums, calm vocals and easygoing electric guitar strums. Bartosik quietly sings, “If the future’s playing games with me?/Who is the player playing games?/It’s just the future playing games with me/It’s just the future playing games.” Here, Alluvial Fans questions the uncertainty that lies ahead, especially in an unthinkable year like 2020.
“I try to write down whatever I’m resonating with or identifying with in the moment and refine my philosophical process and approach to things, things I think are true and worth mentioning. I almost like to leave nothing out or accept there are no rules to things sometimes,” Bartosik said.
“‘Blowout/Future Games’ is straightforward with the chorus, but then there’s a second half. Even though the tempo slows down, it’s like the energy is still there. That highlights how we get low and then try to bring things back up. That was definitely conscious in the song selection for the record.”
After Blowout/Future Games,” “Droves” also showcases Alluvial Fans’ captivating musical dichotomy of quick-changing tempos and compelling aesthetics. As the second Earth to Astronaut single, the track features tranquil acoustic guitar strums and delicate drums that instantly transform into rough electric guitars, driving bass and fierce percussion.
Bartosik loudly sings, “Although it’s coming back to me in droves/I know the roots have always been there/Today it makes me happy just to play/And say we all can share this room.” The track also serves as one of the first ones written by Bartosik and Elkus while rehearsing and jamming in early 2019.
“I think ‘Droves’ and ‘Test the Waters’ are my favorite both from a songwriting perspective and a lyrical perspective. They were new for me in that sense and kind of a breakthrough as far as songwriting goes,” Bartosik said.
Tasty ‘Falafels’ and ‘Tested’ Waters
Another Earth to Astronaut highlight includes the tasty prog-punk instrumental, “Falafel,” which blends swift, banging drumstick clicks with deep, bouncy bass, rhythmic drum taps and rolls, bright, frenzied electric guitars and intermittent screams. With mouthwatering hints of Iggy Pop and Rush, it leaves a lasting impression on the mind and ears.
“I was like, ‘Well, let’s put the instrumental on,’ and then we were playing it live a bunch, too. It took a while for us to get the syncopations of the rhythm down because it’s not straightforward rhythm. It’s more inspired by Middle Eastern and odd time signatures, so you’ll hear the jump in the first half of the song. It’s more so feeling the jump of the rhythm and embracing it,” said Bartosik, who also harbors a deep appreciation for the Middle Eastern dish.
After “Falafel,” Alluvial Fans quickly pivots to the cool, calm and collected “Test the Waters.” Serene electric guitar strums, steady cymbal strikes, soft bass and intermittent drums drench listeners in introspection. Bartosik quietly reflects, “Packing my bags/Leaving for good/Why should I invest if they don’t invest it back in me?”
“I’m saying, ‘I need some attention, give me your attention.’ It’s supposed to be in that voice of self-reflection meets narcissism, and you have to come to grips with the character in a way, like ‘Why are you looking for attention when maybe you don’t need to in a way,’” said Bartosik, who originally started Alluvial Fans as a solo project in 2015 while performing in Honeybabe and Liquid Crystals.
“It’s even in a nurturing way if you don’t have the attention of a mother or father when you’re young, it can affect you. It’s like maybe that’s why people are doing all these crazy things in the world because they didn’t get that paternal love.”
The Solidification of Alluvial Fans
In a sense, Earth to Astronaut also functions as debut album for Alluvial Fans as a collective unit. The band recorded the entire project live in a community studio space after performing together throughout 2019. Each member added their own parts to the album’s collaborative vision instead of using a piecemeal approach on last year’s Lag Air.
“Gilad and Ollie brought their own energy and their own vibe that I could never bring myself, especially in the rhythm section. It’s like a subtle madness that’s beautiful. Gilad is laying down the whole low end, essentially the ground of the track, while being a little sneaky at points. Beyond their musicianship, bringing their energy and spirit to the project really revived it for me because doing it by myself was becoming lonely in a way,” said Bartosik, who grew up in Berkley and was inspired by Nirvana.
Luckily, Bartosik met Granot and Elkus one fateful night at Donovan’s Pub in 2018. Coincidentally, all three shared the bill with Bartosik doing a solo set (complete with a drum machine, Casio keyboard and pedalboard), Granot spinning tunes as “Gil A.D.,” and Elkus playing with a punk band from Maine.
The three musicians became fast friends after experiencing several key events – a broken-down tour van, a salvaged show and a most indecorous doorman – that led to their formation. At the time, Alluvial Fans morphed from a Bartosik solo project into a trio and evolved to include Granot and Elkus adding bass and drum parts to Lag Air.
As an emerging trio, Alluvial Fans eloquently melds high-energy rock, punk, pop and jazz sensibilities while seeking a balance between soft, melodic textures and dynamic, free-flowing soundscapes. Named after a geological phenomenon, the band’s catchy moniker represents Bartosik’s fascination with natural elements and fractal patterns. The passage of time and evolution of Alluvial Fans’ multifarious sound is akin to the way water erodes hard rock into distinctly-shaped sediments.
“It comes back to my reverence for nature and my appreciation for patterns within nature that become universal. The way I see Alluvial Fans is starting from a single source point and then branching out naturally. You’ll see it in river and delta patterns and in similar structures to trees and veins and throughout whole underlying fractal structures in nature. I’m blissfully enamored by these patterns, and it’s kind of a spiritual thing to me,” he said.
Alluvial Fans will carry that multi-genre, dichotomous musical spirit forward in their third album due in 2021. The band already has 12 to 15 new tracks in progress and hopes to embark on a series of DIY and DIT live shows once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
“I’m looking at adding another guitar player to flesh out those parts, but record it live, do some more overdubs and add some acoustic instruments. It’s kind of a foreshadowing of the album by adding more textures on the trio and growing in that way,” Bartosik said.