Essential New Music: Jeffrey Alexander’s “Reyes”

If you don’t immediately recognize the name Jeffrey Alexander, you might still have crossed his path. Currently based in Philadelphia and previously situated in San Francisco, he’s amassed a formidable list of recordings with Dire Wolves, Iditarod and Black Forest/Black Sea, sharing bills with third-eye-minded musicians such as Bardo Pond, Elkhorn and Lau Nau.

Pop Reyes into your tape player and your first response might be one of ease. Its opening tracks, “Woozy Master” and “Perpetual Sunrise,” draw you in with a vibe of reflective ease, sounding rather like something that Loren Connors might make if unfiltered sunlight hit his guitar strings every day for a week. With their friendly melodies and gently spacey backgrounds, they invite you to recline and let go. Go ahead and give in—your soles will thank you. But make sure that you’re leaning into something that can bear your full weight.

Things start to get disorienting with “Blue Flower.” Alexander’s acoustic guitar sets the stage for a lazy Brazilian revery. But his picking is overtaken by noises that feel like they were beamed from a distant star and bounced to your speakers by a sound mirror set up inside Area 51. The melody is voiced by delay-dipped keyboard tones and pulled off center by the pitch-shifting current of a talking-book phonograph. As the album progresses, the tunes elongate and the backdrops swirl, and by the time it’s over, you might be wondering why no one bothered to fit your armchair with a seatbelt.

—Bill Meyer