Release Date: Sep 13, 2019
Record label: Domino
His stream of releases showcased an almost inexhaustible thirst for experimentation, the desire to capture new ideas as they hit and commit them to tape before they floated away. There was also a vulnerable charm in the lo-fi aesthetic of his home recordings, a warts and all presentation of self. The finest moments of his work are always those which take the longest to reveal themselves, melodies lost in cataclysmic settlings, lines of devastating truthfulness auto-tuned to barely decipherable yelps.
No one makes constantly mutating and bizarrely intimate music quite like (Sandy) Alex G. Like his previous album, Rocket, on which Alex Giannascoli fused together everything from violin-laced Americana to distorted trip-hop, House of Sugar similarly displays his controlled spontaneity by casting temporal feelings of euphoria or indecisiveness into oblique packages, while still being wholly cohesive and uniquely (Sandy) Alex G. On House of Sugar, the Philadelphia-based musician craftily runs away on two distinct tangents — tender alt ….
Alex Giannascoli's songs draw weird poignancy from the ordinary. The artist who records under the enigmatic name (Sandy) Alex G mixes the real and the imagined, the possibly-biographical and the probably-fictional in the same breath. His songwriting is detailed but stubbornly opaque, swathed in a fuzz as thick and soft as dryer lint. This unassuming style, initially developed over a half-dozen EPs and albums released independently online, bleeds together DIY rock and homemade folk with snatches of country, industrial, or electronic.
All this time I'd thought (Sandy) Alex G (a.k.a. Alex Giannascoli) was haplessly clutching to his lo-fi foundations when, in fact, he'd been tactfully reinventing them completely. Giannascoli has long been one of the most creative and interesting figures in lo-fi indie. He's released a number of the genre's finest works this decade; Rules and Trick both showed a talented songwriter with clear reverence of Elliott Smith; DSU and Rocket messed around with broader styles and growing depths of instrumentation, spinning out like subtly experimental and mostly excellent sound palettes.
The creative trajectory of Philadelphia's Alex Giannascoli is, at times, overwhelming. For the last decade, under the moniker Alex G (and then eventually (Sandy) Alex G), Giannascoli has been an exemplary force of DIY indie-rock via an endless flood of Bandcamp releases—tallying up to eight studio albums, two EPs, one split EP, and a live album from Third Man. And this is only what has been tracked via various databases—the odds are, Giannascoli has released much, much more.
For his third Domino Records release and ninth album in total, lo-fi pop experimenter (Sandy) Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) presents House of Sugar. The multifaceted title is, for one, a reference to the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, which features in the album's closing track. It also refers to the Grimm fairy tale alluded to in "Gretel," and to the short story "The House Made of Sugar" by Silvina Ocampo, a supernatural tale rooted in superstition and deceit.
The best songwriting trick that Alex Giannascoli (who goes by the name (Sandy) Alex G), knows how to use is confusing the personal and the universal. There are many layers to the Philadelphia's singer-songwriter's ninth album, and third, for Domino imprint, House of Sugar—the most discernible being Sugarhouse Casino, a gambling destination that inspires many of the subjects he covers. On the other hand, it's how he directly portrays himself in these stories— quasi-autobiographical narratives that teeter from obsession to madness.
Alex G’s follow up to Rocket feels as if it has been quite a while in coming. Alex Giannascoli (Alex G) is nothing if not prolific, and whilst two years is not an age to wait for new material, there was a time when his gestation period was far shorter. Still, Giannascoli has been busy getting to grips with new technology (not that he really needs it, his lo-fi approach is part of his charm).
The prolific, inventive Philadelphia musician assumes various characters on his ninth LP, though in parts he's also invigorated with a new lyrical directness Perhaps the most fascinating thing about (Sandy) Alex G is how he manages to release an album of consistently original, absorbing material every couple of years. Since his first self-released record in 2010 ('Race'), the 26-year-old Philadelphia artist has gone on to release a further eight albums. His latest - the wildly creative and simultaneously cohesive 'House of Sugar' - is his third for Domino.
The Lowdown: In 2019, we have more access to artists than ever before. Apart from the mega-celebrities whose press teams can carefully cultivate every word, limiting interviewers to close friends, the past decade has given us keen insight into the lives of artists – whether that's through their Instagram likes or Twitter rants. That social curation has made it rare to come across someone like Alex Giannascoli, who records under the name (Sandy) Alex G, because even though he gives occasional interviews and maintains a bare-bones social media presence, the way he writes from the point of view of his characters adds an air of genuine mystery to his music.
To try and cohesively pinpoint all of (Sandy) Alex G's musical touchstones is to feel as if you're playing out the role of some poor detective in a dated crime drama, stood before an investigation board, desperately trying to unravel clues to a conspiracy. 'House Of Sugar' - Alex Giannascoli's ninth album and third for Domino Records - is the sound of a subconscious truly run riot. A thirteen-track sprawl of pitch-shifted caricatured vocals, shattering industrial outbursts and alt-country inflections; it's also arguably, the most surreal and refined example of his talents yet.