Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Invisible Alphabet Show. The format of today’s program will be 45 revolutions-per-minute 7" vinyl, that tried-and-true audio format introduced 60 years ago by RCA. We’ve got two contestants, each staking their claim on one side of this shiny black record. Both will have approximately four minutes to deliver a tune that’ll hopefully be honey to your ears. This isn’t so much a competition as it is a friendly collaboration, so let’s just throw this thing on the turntable and have a listen.
First up is Charlottesville’s very own Invisible Hand, who has filled its half of the record with an ethereal, multilayered slab of sound called “Death Bellows 45.” Though the Hand has recently been rocking stages as a solid and raucous quartet, the band is the brainchild of guitarist and vocalist Adam Smith. It’s not surprising, then, that this tune feels like floating through his veins. He has set aside the full band lineup to assemble an interior sonic world of his own. Keyboards rise and fall, bleep and bloop; rhythms click and clack, like toy trains and typewriter keys. With each listen, you can make out a little bit more of the landscape, so give this one a healthy number of spins. The song even seems to breathe, inhaling and exhaling with a wheezy, labored effort that evokes its grim title.
Our second contestant is The Alphabet, hailing from across the Blue Ridge in Harrisonburg, home of James Madison University and the yearly DIY music festival MACRoCk. We mention MACRoCk because The Alphabet plays just the type of music that we associate with the festival: a careful balance of punk intensity and pop sensibilities. The band’s contribution, “Repeat,” quickly rises out of a frenzy of guitar noise and assumes a sprightly momentum. It’s like barreling down a steep hill on your bicycle: The speed takes your breath away at first, but pretty soon you’re enjoying the ride as the world whips by. “When you’re not working, you’re drinking,” sings Matt Leech near the song’s end. “When you’re not drinking, you’re getting high. When you’re not high, you’re sleeping. When you’re not sleeping, you die.” Those lines pull the tune together, giving gravity to its quickness and meaning to its title.
Well, that’s all, folks. We’ve hit Side A and Side B. We’ve been mezmerized the Invisible Hand’s slow descent and thrilled by the rollercoaster quickness of The Alphabet. We hope you’ve enjoyed the Invisible Alphabet Show, and we’d like you to know that you can pick up your own copy of this 7" (or the digital files) from Funny/Not Funny Records. It’s a potent little piece of vinyl, so don’t let this one slip by.