Evan Gabriel has no tattoos, only scars.
According to the Dalai Lama, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” While its toughest to extract strength during suffering, this burden can also be a catalyst for creation.
For Alpha Pup’s Crem’e, the passing of his mother eventually led to the birth of his debut LP, Close Up. Likening his newfound awareness to “getting ride of a scar and then feeling naked without it,” the 24-year-old Los Angeles native has spent the last few years putting together the album. Today, Close Up arrives on vinyl and digital platforms. The LP can be ordered here, and contains an inner etching print, special for Crem’e mother.
Personally distinct yet chill and at times ambient, it’s the small fragments of Close Up that stick in your ears. “Good & You” carries a mutual awareness of grief. The title alone speaks to human connections; how many times have you given this exact retort? Maybe it was to a loved one. Did you really mean it?
As a producer, Crem’e fits snuggly into the beat scene that has risen to prominence in Los Angeles over the last two decades. There is clear Teebs influence on “Dreamfare (Kristiana),” and “Exhale.” But this doesn’t take away from the impact of Crem’e early work. But more times than not, Crem’e’s production shines in its own lane, like the washed out guitar loop on “Tenniscoats,” or the aquatic canopy on “Sprouts.”
Electronic music can often sound too digital; the MIDI notes too flat. Crem’e’s strong use of field recordings gives Close Up its tactile, roll-of-film feel. The origin of certain sounds is hard to discern, which leaves some mystique in the air: what is the treading-turned percussion on “Dani?” Depending on what kind of listener you are, this can be entertaining or irksome. Other sounds, though, are easier to pick up, like pennies hitting a desk on “Sorry.”
The album’s standout track, (and centerpiece, for me personally) is “Passing Through.” The song’s laconic pace calls to mind the notion of watching your own breath. What sounds like knives and chains clank in the distance. As the low bass chords creep and resolve, birds chirp overhead. Somehow heavy and relieving at the same time, “Passing Through” works just as well as an intro as it does a closer.
In a recent interview with The Hundreds, Crem’e mentioned he sees no distinction between the songs themselves, nor a plot to the album—which considering each track’s general mood; fleeting but not rushed, around only temporarily—feels fitting. At 17 tracks, Close Up is a collection of raw reactions, a 46-minute demonstration of hope.