Album Review: Leon Alvarado — Charging the Electric Dream

I’ve covered at least two previous releases from Leon Alvarado. 2014’s Music from an Expanded Universe was a kind of ambient chillwave set; The Future Left Behind (2016) leaned in a more prog-rock direction. Those records drew upon the additional artistry of guest players like Trey Gunn. Alvarado’s latest, Charging the Electric Dream is a solo work in the most literal sense of the phrase. And it steps away from the prog style that has defined much of the Venezuelan-born musician’s work, leaning instead toward a decidedly more synth-centered sound with a cinematic feel.

Listeners may hear hints of Jean-Michelle Jarre or mid-period Tangerine Dream in the glacial, impressionistic compositions on Charging the Electric Dream. The bloop-bleep synthesizer texture create a retro feel, and the meditative quality of cuts like “Alternative Frequencies” place the music in an early ‘70s, time-capsule place. But then “Megapolis,” drawing on hypnotic beats and soundscapes, sounds in places eerily like the basic tracks from parts of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The arrangements are perhaps less densely textured than one might expect of such a project; often as not, a handful of machines are employed to create the sonic palette for the seven instrumental pieces. And the year-gone-by character is reinforced further by the album’s length: at under 38 minutes, it runs about as long as did most vinyl-format LPs of a half century ago.

Alvarado’s tunes on this set work just fine when held up to active listening, but the character of the music may suit Charging the Electric Dream best for use as background audio.