Al Berkowitz – A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond

Al Berkowitz – A Long Hereafter / Nothing Beyond

A decade ago, the then Berlin-based band of Spanish expatriates The Inhabitants gained a new member, an American living in the German capital and whose name was Al Berkowitz. By 2009, Al himself had left the band, but The Inhabitants decided to retain his name, for reasons that are known only to Ignacio Simón, Lorenzo Palomares and Santiago Estrada, the current line-up of what remains the Al Berkowitz band, at least by title. Now relocated to their hometown of Madrid, Al Berkowitz are continuing to write and record music and the background to where these songs originated from and their reissue now after a two year hiatus is slightly glossed over on the band’s social media sites, so I won’t dwell upon the vagaries of bands actually getting their music heard which, as a lot of musicians know, is occasionally a complex process. Now with the assistance of the Green UFOs label, Al Berkowitz are releasing an album that they first began recording in 2010, originally released in a lengthier format in 2013, and is now at seven tracks a slightly shorter album, in 2015.

Whatever the whys and wherefores of its original release, you might decide you want to hear A Long Hereafter/Nothing Beyond in its original form as the seven remaining tracks reveal a band whose grasp of form and instrumentation is a notable one, with songs that vary between psych-rock wigouts and more laid back Eurobeat that takes its cues from swing jazz and ’60s continental pop. First track “You And I”, with its brushed drum intro and flamenco atmospherics, is a soporific late summer groove of a tune, in contrast to second track “The Frenchman And The Rabbitman” which sees the Berkowitz’s channelling the 13th Floor Elevators in an eight minute epic tale that might have originated somewhere in the fables of Aesop. “Magical Cynical” is another kind of song again, a swaying piano-led ballad with a singalong wordless chorus reminiscent somewhere of Billy Joel (or even Ben Folds) and then “Farewell, My Lady” brings the sixties influenced psych-rock back into the frame with its furious drumming and thrashing guitar chord introduction, and its improvised mid-section retains the quick pacing of its beginning to go off into several tangents simultaneously to reach a bewildering and sudden conclusion of a crashing piano chord.

“A Long Hereafter” carries a similar tune to its predecessor although it’s a far less frantically paced number, and with a (sampled?) string section present the song drifts away from its basic structure and into an improvised melody of cello and airy vocalising. “Nothing Beyond” is an instrumental that harks back to first track “You And I” with its keening slide guitars and cocktail bar ambience, although this is only a calm before the electronica boosted final track “Sensitive, Not Dramatic”, the second longest number on the album, a percussive experiment in varied timings and guitar and keyboard pyrotechnics before its lengthy, and actually a bit dramatic fade-out conclusion.

The journey that Al Berkowitz have undertaken to reach an actual release of their second album seems to have been a lengthy one. In its original form there were an additional four tracks, or perhaps I didn’t get the full download, or there are other reasons why the Madrid-based band has chosen to make their second album available with about a third of its original length now removed. Yet what remains is a consistently listenable collection of songs that shows an array of influences and some elaborate arrangements that put them together with haphazard purpose, occasionally to brilliant effect.

www.alberkowitz.com