Alias & Tarsier
he greatest collaborations of all-time always feature a little bit of competition. A little bit of hatred. A little bit of conflict. Adam and Eve had the whole apple thing, Shaq and Kobe won three championships together and hated every minute of it, and you just know that Siegfried had something to do with Roy and the tiger (although don’t count Darren Romeo out of the equation). That’s one reason why Alias & Tarsier’s Brookland/Oaklyn doesn’t quite work as well as it should. You get the feeling that all of the internet communication back and forth dulled the conflict and smoothed out all of the rough edges. Who knows? If a tiger had been involved in the 21 months that it took to record Brookland/Oaklyn something edgy might’ve made its way onto the album.
But it didn’t. In fact, according to one interview, the duo barely even talked on the phone during the recording process. Tarsier says that it was pretty simple: she e-mailed Alias after falling in love with Muted, Alias’ mostly instrumental LP from 2003 asking if he wanted to collaborate. And away they went, shifting MBs back and forth.
You get the feeling that, much in the same way that Tarsier did, anyone could fall in love with Brookland/Oaklyn. There are some genuinely stunning tracks. “Rising Sun” is stutter shoe-hop at its finest. Tarsier’s vocals are up-front and center, placed over a skittering and watery backing before Alias drops the hammer—using the stop/start soft/loud acapella/full band technique to full effect. That trick is used again in the next track, “Last Nail,” except this time Alias’ speed-rapping (the only time he appears on the disc in vocal form) finds itself alone waiting for a production pick-me-up. They’re both accomplished songs, but they sound so much alike that it’s almost hard to differentiate the two—aside from the rapping, of course. The beats speed along, Tarsier’s voice is thinly chopped, and the meat of the production (strings, guitar, synth) wavers along, turning into mush by track’s end.
“Luck and Fear” is an exception to this general rule, featuring production that attempts to keep pace with Doseone’s own speed-rap. It’s a wake-up call in the midst of Brookland/Oaklyn’s second-half lull. But it’s unanswered by the closing two tracks, “Picking the Same Lock” and “Ligaya,” which choose to fade away into the ether.
You can tell from the piano-led jump that Brookland/Oaklyn is an album in need of tension. Everyone’s too busy reveling in the beauty to bother to make that beauty earn. Too often in its forty-eight minutes and ten tracks, the album veers towards the easy answer. Too often this album sounds like a genre exercise in need of surprises like Doseone busting up a track, instead of surprises like a guitar propping one up.
Stream tracks from Brookland/Oaklyn here.