Alex Wellkers’ “Fly Away” LP

Labeling Alex Wellkers’ Fly Away as any specific musical style does a profound disservice to the album’s ambition. The Switzerland-based musician, singer, arranger, and songwriter has an elastic musical ambition that encompasses several different styles, sometimes within the same song, rather than restraining himself to a particular point of view. Fly Away’s eleven songs touch on hard rock, progressive rock, classical, and even folk influences without ever risking a disjointed effect on listeners. It sounds like an album that possibly took a year to write and record, but decades to live.

It may not be apparent going into the release but Fly Away has a clear design. The underlying construction of the track listing will be obvious after a first pass. It opens with an introduction of sorts, the short acoustic-driven track “You Want Us”. Lasting only one minute and forty seconds, “You Want Us” introduces listeners to musical elements that remain at the fore throughout the remaining ten tracks. “We Celebrate” is the album’s first full-length song. It opens with a spartan pairing of piano and Wellkers’ vocals treated with a smattering of post-production pizazz. The latter effect isn’t distracting; it enhances the song’s dramatic qualities. Wellkers introduces listeners to an approach that serves him well throughout the release. Many of Fly Away’s songs are incremental, building from low-key origins into full-on cinematic pieces, and this is no exception.

This is true of “Making Progress”. However, Wellkers varies his approach with a focus on different instrumentation than its predecessor. The woodwinds and acoustic guitar anchoring the first quarter of the song casts the track in a folky light. It soon segues into hard rock trappings, and Wellkers sounds equally at home in both sonic landscapes. “Grab the Stars” is one of Fly Away’s peak moments.

The curt yet rugged rhythm guitar accompanying the opening violin gives it an unusual character compared to other album performances. He dispenses with his wont for the slow build with this track, and this ability to shift gears without ever running off course helps diversify the release.

There is a brief violin introduction before “We Try Our Best” unleashes riff after riff of incendiary guitar. It doesn’t adopt a strict bulldozer approach though. Wellkers has a sure-handed command of dynamics in his arrangements. His performances, even at their hardest, are never mindless bludgeoning. “What You Think Right Now” may be the most hard-hitting moment on Fly Away. Dynamics are still important, but the song doesn’t incorporate any lighter musical touches defining earlier songs.

The horns heard at the beginning of “We Belong Here” are interesting, but ultimately perfunctory. They merely prelude another guitar-heavy rock track that ranks among the best during Fly Away’s second half. Alex Wellkers runs an impressive gamut over these eleven tracks that never fails to hold the listener’s interest. Fly Away never coasts or ceases taking chances, and it stands as the first, but surely not the last, full expression of his considerable talents. It is highly recommended and won’t disappoint.

Jodi Marxbury

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