Anticon founder and instrumental rap innovator Alias is reborn with Fever Dream, his sixth full-length for the label. Alias' acclaimed 2008 LP Resurgam represented a culmination of the sound he'd been chasing the previous five years -- a bewitchingly blue combination of icy atmosphere, haunted melodies and hard drums. He cleansed his palate with 2010's Fallen House, Sunken City, the modern boom-bap masterpiece he produced for emcee B. Dolan, and when it came time to return to the Alias oeuvre, he was ready for a reboot.
Fever Dream is Alias' most inspired and dynamic record in years. Spurred by the psychedelic sound and off-kilter groove of electronic experimentalists like Flying Lotus, Modeselektor and Bibio, he ditched quantized beats, embraced warmth, and set the whole thing wobbling to a warped dance pulse. Incorporating generous amounts of chopped, pitch-bent R&B vocals, plus sprinklings of live instrumentation and loads of left turns, Fever Dream is a stylistic whirlwind of hallucinatory house, homespun big beat, swinging downtempo, and melodic break music.
Second song "Wanna Let It Go" offers a mainline into the new album. Laced with soulful moans, deep bass, digital blips and swooning synths, the track can't help but nod to contemporaries like James Blake and Nosaj Thing, while the soupy, seething "Revl Is Divad" seems to pluck its particular swing from the early '90s (the title contains a hint as to specifics). "Feverdreamin" is a lush tropical breeze of a song sounding like Boards of Canada interpreting Animal Collective, and "Sugarpeeeee" is an exercise in ghostly electric R&B that goes out on some serious clang.
Alias brings in a few collaborators as well. Subtle's Dax Pierson fleshes out the lush, jittery funk of "Talk In Technicolor" by lending his voice and keys to the cause. For "Dahorses," old friend DJ Mayonnaise plays the New Wave synth, while Mike Haggett crushes the drums, building to a Tortoise-y full-band finale. The throbbing "Lady Lambin'" samples the "la-dee-da's" of fellow Mainer Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, while "Boom Boom Boom," tosses the modulated coo of WHY?'s Yoni Wolf into a blender with some slowed-down Bhangra beats.
Fittingly, the album comes to a close with "Wrap," where a girl and a guy nabbed from other songs spar over the equally contentious sonics, ranging from stuttering hip-hop to dub-damaged ambience to a crescendo of percussion, chimes and voice. And just like that, Fever Dream ends, with no indication that the reverie is actually over. Bad news for the short term -- it's hard not to want more -- but the long view looks great: renewed, Alias has a ton of new ground to explore.