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Bachelorette My Electric Family Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

It's a flawed but frequently intriguing listen.

Jon Lusk 2009

'Bachelorette' is a sexist old Americanism for an unmarried woman, as well as the title of songs by both Björk and Tori Amos. It's also the stage name/alter ego of Kiwi one-woman band Annabel Alpers. Her second album proper marks her out as an artist whose ambition is considerable, although not always matched by her songwriting.

My Electric Family mixes up bravura multi-hued electro-pop with occasional tweeness and ocassional filler. With a little help from several male muso friends, Alpers constructs her often complex songs from what sounds like a varied battery of vintage synths/keyboards. Her dystopian, retro futurism boasts the kind of eclectic and sometimes unlikely mix of references that only musicians who work far away from the world's pop epicentres tend to come up with. She sings in a breathy, dispassionate, vibrato-less voice that often borders on the robotic and is layered or treated, sometimes till it becomes just another instrumental texture.

Instructions For Insomniacs is a hugely impressive opener, building from a metronomic acoustic guitar motif into an audacious crescendo, swept along by
shuffling snare and luminescent steel guitar. It's a hard act to follow, and the rest of the album struggles to reach the same heights, though it rallies in several places.

Just as Alpers is starting to overdo the singer-as-machine routine on The National Grid (largely cannibalised from another song by psych-punk rockers HDU), it takes off in a more interesting direction. Similarly, the disco/funk-lite ditty Mindwarp is redeemed by OTT stabs of syn-drums. Her Rotating Head offers a less-than subtle but entertaining homage to The Human League, while Technology Boy seems torn between Laurie Anderson and Kraftwerk for role models, and features some playful vocoder doodlings.

A day-glo pyschedelic undercurrent prevails, so it's no surprise when Dream Sequence updates The Beatles' Penny Lane to the 21st century and Donkey flicks its ears at Phil Spectors' girl group wall-of-sound. Stripping back the electrickery, Where To Begin offers the only hint of naked emotion, making it all the more affecting, but thereafter, Alpers seems to run out of steam. It's a flawed but frequently intriguing listen.

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