The Sophomore Integrity

In their second album, L’alphalpha’s imagination set them free from the prison of their agony – if you know what I mean


What is it that makes second albums the crux of the voyage?

Post-recognition from the world, it is the feedbacks. It is the responses from the people, that often make bands re-think, re-adjust and even rarely, move backwards toward their music. Of course, the spooky phrase “second album syndrome” is there for a reason, and I believe that one of the reasons is the increasing quantity of crossroads along the way. The first task – to be heard – is done. Now what?

When the debut came out as a decent result, seconds are about conquering higher mountains. Should we stick to the old tricks? Should we disclose any novelty? Do people love this part? Should we wear these costumes? Should we consider what people say? These are usually the crossroads. Second albums are about deciding what stays and what should move away. While the bonding between members becomes more intimate, problems are also growing inevitably.

“All birds are against gravity” is a polite appetizer served cold by a charming waitress. It doesn’t intrigue me that much, but it makes me sit down and pay attention furthermore. Whilst questioning the reason why they put this song as the opener, the cover album snitches my attention. Done unconventionally, Von Stufe Zu Stufe physical release is far from boring. It is not handy, true. But what is the point of making another handy-safe-similar physical release today when you can make it cum with your thumb via iTunes and the gang.

Just like a bullet train illustrated in the cover, my personal favorite “Future Days” starts without any baloney. The intro is dense, all instruments are speeding through the deep, intense tunnel of uplifting curiosity before finally stops and beautifully scatters as tiny bit of details. This song, defines progress.

Pikiranku, kan jadi pikiranmu kan jadi pikiranku (“Gema”). Traveling out of the comfort zone, VSZS offers four songs with Indonesian lyrics. After listening to them these past months, I concluded that the songs give a certain context, certain warmth, which surprisingly fit well with the arrangement. The fiercest track in the album – “Tarian” – is written in Bahasa as well. Generally, the album captures questions, proximity and anxiety of relationship between people, trust and of course, the future.

I couldn’t help but noticed the improvements in the dynamics of the songs. It is legit to say that they’re now completely detached from the “Icelandic” label that could be flattering and tricky in the same time. They did their homework splendidly, which resulted in new sound treasuries (Tarian), simple yet effective lyrical approach (Gema, Terang dan Tenang) and the most protruding: lively and boisterous drum orchestration! It is almost impossible to ignore Ildo Hasman’s drumming in almost every song in the album. Instead of building firm rhythmic like most drummers do, Ildo enhances the songs elegantly and gives character, without making them become too complicated.

Another credit is also pinned for the expanding vocals portion throughout the album. Herald Reynaldo and Byatriasa Ega are now sharing the bowl, almost equally. Unfortunately in some parts of the song, the adjoined shouts don’t sound that lovely. The mixture of two high pitch vocals obscures the range distinction. It would have been better if the vocal consists of two different tones, just like, for instance, Madley Croft and Sim from The XX.

Final verdict, Von Stufe Zu Stufe proposes a nice shift that has the integrity to become prominent, yet flexible and consistent enough to stand as an extension from L’alphalpha’s previous album.

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