The very first words on altopalo’s debut album are, “This is a terrible idea.” Another voice responds with “Don’t force it down, just let it drop,” and a third squeals and giggles with delight. As the group brace themselves for whatever’s about to come (“Hold on a sec, hold on a sec! Are you ready?”), the first voice—ever the cynic—chimes back in, saying “I bet you, like, nothing’s gonna happen.” And as the group count down—3, 2, 1—an opaque fuzz of white noise engulfs them, and us, and we are collectively thrown down the rabbit hole.
In reality, it would seem this thirty-two second intro (appropriately titled “nothing’s going to happen”) was the product of a mishap with a door that clearly needs fixing, but it functions perfectly as part warning, part welcome into altopalo’s world. The Brooklyn-based foursome’s first release, noneofuscared, is presented—and should be taken—as a real voyage into the minds of multi-instrumentalists Rahm Silverglade, Dillon Treacy, Jesse Bielenberg, and Mike Haldeman. The album’s cover art positions us as passengers at the dashboard of a spaceship, and the first song, “chagrinning,” opens with the warbles and waves of electronic effects, effectively pulling us along for the ride. As the album unfolds, it becomes clear that each track is its own trip; though there are only five songs here (not including the intro and a very short interlude), each of them runs through several mood changes and modulations, borrowing bits and pieces from prog rock, modern electronic trends, and R&B along the way.
The third track, “loafly,” is a prime example of altopalo’s penchant for long, diffuse songs that evolve rather drastically over the course of two or three distinct acts. Though it begins with a seductive guitar riff and Silverglade’s smooth and soulful vocals groaning lines like “We’ve got lovin’ to do on the bathroom floor,” it soon unfurls into a dense, aggressively sinister segment before breaking down halfway through with a surprisingly catchy melody and fast-paced clapping percussion. The real feat is the finesse with which these changes are executed; the four friends possess an evident instinct for natural melodic progression that keeps things flowing even as they pull the most abrupt switch-ups. And despite the plainly experimental nature of altopalo’s musings, they exhibit moments of real radio-friendly prowess, as with the unexpected, foot-stomping “chorus” that rears its head in the midst of the psych-y, hip-hop-tinged “hahsnheads.”
All told, noneofuscared comes off as equally accessible and alienating, much like a real psychedelic trip or vivid dream sequence. Our anchor through it all, and the band’s greatest asset, is Silverglade himself—an undoubtedly versatile vocalist who confidently traverses across different genres and tones with a certain level of charm. His voice infuses even the band’s weirdest stints with approachability, making him an indispensable component in this bizarre journey of an album. With Silverglade leading the way, I’m inclined to sign up for whatever trip these guys tackle next.