Alex Gordon Hi-Fi
The Kingdom Is Wild






The average Exotica aficionado – whoever that might be – has encountered many album titles over the years, and even though the beautiful coquette next to the erupting volcano on the front artwork remains a common and most welcome trope in these realms, it is the titles of these albums that need to be used in order to, well, articulate one’s opinion about a specific LP, regardless of its Space-Age origin, Easy listening heritage or Exotica qualities. Enter Alex Gordon Hi-Fi, the solo project of the eponymous musician from Georgia, Atlanta who usually releases albums that are based on one premise only: an expertly played baritone guitar. Once this is attached to a convincing concept such as Music For Pedestrians! (2013) and its five little street scenes, even one abstraction can fare very well in the flamboyant world of Exotica and its textural abundance.


For now, however, Alex Gordon has formed a trio with vibraphonist and percussionist Kevin Leahy and drummer Danny Paschall. The nine-track result as recorded in March 2014 is called – attention, title lovers – This Kingdom Is Wild, can be purchased and fully streamed at Bandcamp and is at the end of the day much, much more soothing, tame and silky than its title of grandeur may suggest. Here we have the case of an album that promises bold things. What the listener receives differs strikingly, but it is well worth the inspection, belive you me! The album unchains an Exotica spirit due to the track lengths alone. There is not even a chance for a song to bore the listener. In addition, there are quite a few electrifying rhythm alterations in place and many melodies to feast on. Read more about Alex Gordon Hi-Fi’s first exotic band outing below.


A crossbreed between a faux military march aura and a swinging Jazz granuloma of fizzling snare drums and juxtaposed hi-hats, This Must Be The Place takes the listener to the technicolor jungle and won’t let him or her escape until the last song is played. The augmentation of Alex Gordon’s baritone guitar adds depth to the scenery and allows for a further fibrillar blotchiness of the funky kind: sun-soaked chords as well as cocktail vibraphones and cascading glissandos as the benthic illuminants remain the verdured adjuvants for the prospering garden scenery that is so endemic on this album. Not necessarily a singalong tune, the opener exudes the plastic laissez-faire attitude of insouciance and freedom by neglecting the album title. The follow-up Jangala is equally keen on spreading out a stop-and-go motion of sun-dappled carefreeness. Alex Gordon’s guitar shuttles between ligneous low frequency wobbles and appended pericarps of lushness, with Kevin Leahy’s vibes glued to the guitar in certain sections while still standing on its own feet in this Exotica lavabo hymn.


Once the sumptuous afterglow of the mallet instrument fades out into languor, Sea Creature skims along in a very sleazy fashion, admixing a reconditely slick Funk guitar with city-strolling timbres. It is yet again the intercommunication with the delightfully enigmatic vibes which take the song to a dualistic form of existence. Both mysterious and raucous, the oceanic abomination resembles clandestine reticulations and perfectly earthbound coolness at the same time. This is what Exotica is (also) about: conflictive clashes arranged in a way to become spermatocystic saccharin. The first half of Matchstick Palace meanwhile puts the bandleader in the spotlight by allowing Mr. Gordon room to interconnect the prelude with cauterized aureoles before the second part enchants with a maximum of oneiric vibraphone washes. The result is a dreamy megamélange of syringa acreages, the sort of escapism whose ambiance mellows out the bumpy road before it. Passage then enthralls with a wonderful rhythm as dropped by Danny Paschall whose comparatively eclectic shifts and alterations are just accessible enough to let the listener feast on the melodious minimalist Psychedelica and appended vibe crystals. This could well be the most melodious and uplifting sparkler of the album.


World Class Rollerskater is the counterpoint to the intrinsic formula, at least title-wise, for the roller skater is a perfectly common sight near the beaches of, say, Miami; compare that with a matchstick palace or various sea creatures. However, the song does have its merit, if only for the fact that it seems to stumble along less elegantly and rather arbitrarily, allowing the band to unfurl an oxymoronic planned improvisation. The vibraphone vesicles feel tipsy, the choppy guitar chords harbor sentiments and invidiousness, and the argentine drums chip closely to the scenery. And what the heck, there is even room for your typical Sunday nihilism: Until The Final Asteroid Turns Off The Sun is neither histrionic nor apocalyptic but a high-chromaticity sunburst of heterodyned guitar fluorescence, revved up drum patterns and an astounding amount of quiescent interstices which allow to contemplate and ponder.


Jungle Tree follows and stands in the tradition of helical mirages that etiolate the truth of living in the jungle. The whole arrangement is mercilessly soothing, the sustain of the vibes covers the midday tendrils of Alex Gordon’s guitar as well as the silvery rhizomes of Danny Paschall’s drums… or is it doldrums? This track is indeed all about doldrums and a hammock-compatible atmosphere. A great tune which is backed by the final ditty called Avalanche!, a magnificent Surf Rock hymn with jazzy speckles. Dubious chord progressions, murky baritone guitar undercurrents and falling vibe cataracts make this psychedelic epithelium a fitting artifact of closure.


This Kingdom Is Wild is probably too bold a title for the nine presented tracks, for there is anything particularly wild about them, no over-the-top conga solo or savage chant à la Chaino or Sabu, zero labyrinthine sections that outshadow the darkest bits of Creepxotica, zilch magnanimous string cavalcades as depicted in Edmond De Luca’s opus Safari (1958), but what sounds like an attempt to pan Alex Gordon’s material itself couldn’t be farther from the truth! It is just that the title is a ploy, a red herring, most certainly unintendedly so. What this album lacks in brutish craziness, the band delivers via suave and silky complexions. An afternoon veil lies over the songs, they are hued in suntraps, awash with green reflections. The hybridization of the album is taken ever-forward by Alex Gordon, for this is no streamlined whitewashed Easy Listening dob.


The rhythmic changes and catalepsies are a great addendum to an artist who is almost always playing as a solo musician, as is the omnipresence of the vibraphone whose glacial physiognomy does not translate to scything prongs or icicles, but refreshing dew drops and streamlets in an otherwise dry record. This dryness does yet again not translate to boredom, oh no, but still: a curious recording technique is the dryness of the baritone guitar which would have benefited the pointillistic pipe dreams if it were a tad more aqueous and less crunchy. Especially in juxtaposition to Kevin Leahy’s coruscating vibraphone do the sometimes incongruent surfaces become apparent; this, however, is the cross-section where This Kingdom Is Wild absorbs its aesthetic dichotomy, along with sophisticated melodies which feign easiness. This Kingdom Is Wild is an inconspicuous abode, but a true Exotica tropicana vestibule.


Further listening:

The Kingdom Is Wild can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp


Exotica Review 360: Alex Gordon Hi-Fi – The Kingdom Is Wild (2014). Originally published on Jul. 19, 2014 at