Alpha Stronggah Crafts a Disjointed But Brilliant Vision of the Club on His ‘Partes’ EP

Read more

The last official release shared by Baltazar Solar as Alpha Stronggah was an EP called Nuestroh (2014, Discos Pegaos), and it wasn’t a particularly easy ride. The songs there are dense and abstract, heavily influenced by hip-hop and dub, and carry a constant darkness that covers everything like a menacing shadow. The beats are disjointed and always on the verge of falling apart, and overall, it offers an exhilarating listen.

Now on Chilean imprint FolCore, Alpha Stronggah’s new EP Partes maintains a few of these qualities, but the general approach here feels very different from his past works. The EP is a lot more accessible and less layered, which doesn’t mean it lacks production value at all; he stuck to playing with fewer elements to make them all shine. It’s also a brighter album, even though some of the eerie elements remain, and it sounds like he had his mind set on the club while he was making it.

Partes is a word that can mean a lot of things, and that’s what Solar wanted to play with in terms of mood and concept. Whether it’s about leaving, breaking away from something, a specific place, etc., the EP was conceived to satisfy all of those meanings through experimentation with sound. More specifically, he wanted to locate the music in Latin America through rhythm, and while that influence doesn’t translate explicitly, there are definitely some glimpses of that starting point. Opener “Templo,” for example, features flavorful percussion and some trumpet samples that resemble the song of tropical birds. It’s an austere track with shimmering synth notes, washes of reverb, and odd dynamics, at once club-ready and experimental.

The pitched-down vocal samples connect Partes to Alpha Stronggah’s previous work, and they have quite an unsettling effect. That mood is palpable on “Leopardos en tu piel,” a song that starts off sounding obscure, with cello stabs that resemble grime, but when the melody’s rain-like bleeping synth sounds enter the picture, the vibe instantly changes. The song becomes even more joyful, with delayed percussion that creates a sort of samba-tinted pattern.

The first few seconds of “Juntos somos uno” immediately makes us think that it must be the most conventional song on the EP, and to some extent, it is. It mainly references 80s synth pop and house music, but it doesn’t necessarily sound like either of them. The by-the-book house stabs interact with a restless growling bassline, electric piano-like melody, and vocal samples that little by little end up creating a catchy hook. Partes closes with “Primera Respuesta,” a track that features some of the most upbeat moments in the whole collection. Paradoxically, it doesn’t count with any kick drums or low-end elements at all, and it makes you feel like something is missing, but that’s part of where its charm comes from.

Partes shows that Alpha Stronggah isn’t afraid of taking risks and experimenting different approaches on every new release. On its own, Partes offers a peculiar perspective on what can or cannot work as club music, particularly in a global landscape that’s saturated with predictable and cookie-cutter productions.