If you're a fan of the British electronic dance/trance trio Above & Beyond, then you will immediately recognize the voice of UK singer-songwriter Alex Vargas, who has graced us with his smooth, soulful vocals on a slew of A&B tracks. Those include the singles, "All Over the World", "Blue Sky Action" and "Sticky Fingers", from 2015's We're All We Need, and vocals on several tracks on the Above & Beyond Acoustic albums. You might not have realized what a talented singer-songwriter Alex already was on his own, having written songs and playing guitar since the age of 15. It's been nearly four years since he released his first solo album, Howl.
The new album, Cohere, was produced by Alex, Tommy Sheen and Christian "Leggy" Langdon, and contains a whopping 17 new tracks that seem to be sequenced in an intentional and artful way. The track listing is a juxtaposition of stand-alone, full-length songs that are connected by several "interludes" to form a cohesive listening experience. The title track, "Cohere", is, in fact, presented in three parts across the album, with "Part 2" presenting the core of the song. This is definitely one of those long-plays that I think is best enjoyed by listening from start to finish.
While the entire album is stunning and an enjoyable listen, I think several tracks stand out among the others.
"Inclosure" kicks off with a few beats of a drum machine before launching into a full, powerful sound, with a spotlight on well-placed synths, and driving beat and bass. The lyrics deal with breaking free from emotional, internally established, boundaries and limits: "Maybe you should make your mind up | Break away from your inclosure | If you're feeling like you're tied up | Maybe you should think it over." I love the cool vocal sound effect on Alex's voice on the "...over (over, over)" part of the chorus.
ALEX VARGAS "INCLOSURE" (Official Video)
"Tidal", a quicker-paced number with a catchy chorus, is about acknowledging the "tidal" effect within a push-and-pull relationship, and the struggle related to wavering between "How do I get back in control?" and "Maybe I need to let you go."
With vocals that transition from soft and delicate to yearning and heart-wrenching, "Cohere (Pt. 2)" is the most emotional, stripped down track on the album. The gentle, electric guitar crescendos that guide this song are beautiful - rising and falling in volume and intensity, along with Alex's stunning vocals: "When you howl, I'm not worthy of words, but in circles we cohere."
Turn up the volume on "7 Sins" - this one has a driving beat, with a bit of 70's rock/disco feel. On his Facebook page, Alex writes that the song is "about the strange human instinct that drives us to keep seeking out love after having our hearts broken."
But the real gem, and my favorite track, on Cohere is the breathtaking "Follow You". I love the two-string electric guitar riffs that flow through the song. It is soft, beautiful, contemplative and really showcases the beautiful songwriting, vocal performance and elegant arrangements of the song: "All of the time that it takes | Ridding my mind of mistakes | To find a way out" "I'm so many hours in debt | Sleeping away my regret | But I'm wide awake now | I've found a way out | Now I follow you."
Cohere is available on all major streaming platforms, but if you're a vinyl aficionado, find yourself a copy of the stunning double white vinyl pressing.
For more information about Alex Vargas, follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, check out his official website, and find his music on Spotify and iTunes.