Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
The sport of running has the pulsing, slow-motion brilliance of Vangelis’ classic Chariots of Fire. Football (or Soccer for those living in the US of A) has the hammering, tongue-in-cheek beats of New Order’s World in Motion alongside a plethora of different songs related to everyone’s favourite 11-a-side game. Basketball has the fat, fiery synths of Jock Jam’s Are You Ready For This? that instantly conjure up images of some talented sweat-band wearing person taking it to the hoop. It seems that, in many cases, the world of media has been able to assign a sport with a solid and enjoyable anthem.
When it comes to golf however, one can often draw a blank. What music is best suited for the lush, green fairways? The cool breeze as you line up that perfect putt for an eagle? The bitter refreshment of a pint in the immaculate clubhouse after that impressive performance on the 6th hole?
Enter Alpha Chrome Yayo (ACY) and his latest release, The 19th Hole.
As an artist, it is clear that he is familiar with working in a concept. His last project? An icy synth-noir expedition through a dark and dangerous industrial landscape. The one before that? A shimmering aquatic experience with dreamy tinges of electronica. The two are almost polar opposites of each other, yet in both we hear ACY’s sound completely succumb to the respective conceptual criteria.
ACY: I’d describe it as the virtual golf club of your dreams; the links (golf course) of our collective psyche. It’s a little bit Caddyshack, a little bit Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge – the fictional golf game outta The Simpsons. It’s steeped in ‘80s excess and wrapped in a cashmere sweater, jauntily tied around the shoulders, of course.
This ‘virtual’ experience is clearly conveyed throughout the 15-track album. From the very beginning with Tee Off!, thick globules of synth spread over a heavily pixelated fairway like some sort of video game menu screen.
Gimme dat Wood is laced with toy synth sounds and warbling voice-like keyboards playing in an unending, spiralling loop. The structure of the track sounds as though the video game creators only had a set amount of kilobytes assigned for the in-game music
The sensibly explorative piano riff of And That, My Friends, Is What I Call Golf as we cycle through our selected player and club. That virtual experience is evidently a huge influence for ACY.
But the album goes deeper still. Often it diverges from this pastiche of early video game soundtracks. Bitchin’ Putt hears somnific keys emanating from a beautifully tranquil place. It almost sounds like we are a forgotten golf ball hit long ago, resting at the bottom of a pristine, blue lake.
In Sweater Round The Shoulders (And One For The Waist) shining beams of melody escape from crystal caverns as we are welcomed into the clubhouse by a polite french ostiary who lends us the two sweaters we are required to wear to be allowed entrance.
Frequently ACY bursts out of merely aping or recreating a video game soundtrack. He actively creates a golf-themed world with rules and traditions. A living breathing world for the listener to experience.
ACY: Honestly, it wasn’t. It originally started as just a soundtrack to an imaginary golf game, with lots of Sega Genesis/Mega Drive FM synths mixed with crystalline Sega Saturn style scores. And a lot of that still remains, glues the whole thing together even.
But I realised pretty quickly that I wanted to make something way more wide-reaching and, to be honest, more interesting. With every other release I’ve ever put out, I’ve come up with the track titles while I wrote the music, and both inform each other.
With this though, I sat down sometime last November and had a huge laugh writing out the funniest titles I could possibly think of, and planned on occasionally writing a song or two to fit, in that VGM style.
I made a conscious decision to just throw the metaphysical country club gates wide open and get really creative with it, in terms of both sonic palette and subject matter.
Through this exploration, ACY uncovers the beauty in this imagined idolisation of the sport. The pristine serenity that the concept of golf produces in one’s mind, especially in the mind of someone who appreciates genres of music that are famed for exploring premises of virtual utopia.
However, people’s perception of golf isn’t all endless fairways and painstakingly trimmed greens. Golf is often perceived to be a sport for the affluent, snobbish higher classes. Golf clubhouses are seen as a bastion of old, white money and power, where rich men kick back and enjoy their afforded hedonism. This too, falls within the scope of ACY’s creative sight.
Alpha Chrome Yayo on the track Where the HELL is that Caddy?!:
When I thought of that title, I figured it would be a straight-up PGA Tour Golf ‘96 jam with a hint of yuppie-wave. Instead it ended up this cavernous, hyper-percussive musing on the late-night existential crises of billionaires-gone-bad.
The track serves as a perfect example of how the artist approaches the subject matter in a creatively critical way. The sinister instrumentation provides an almost scary backdrop as we are privy to the bane of every lime green-shirted man earning over 50k a year.
This incisive inspection of character is balanced beautifully with moments of great musicianship. Even in this song, we hear the robotic voice of the rich, white man speak of the ‘overgrown fairway we call life’. It’s a touching analogy that stands in contrast to the song, which is mainly focused on exposing the grotesquely rude and entitled nature of the archetypal golfer.
It feels as though there are a few tracks on the album that slip deeper still into heartfelt correlations between the playing through of 18 holes and our collective journey through life itself.
The Smell of the Green has an emotive gracefulness to it. The track is a relaxed and achingly beautiful ode to the vibrant brilliance of the laid grass where a golfer makes their hopeful putt. It features a sanguine string melody that soars above the other facets of instrumentation with a longing you wouldn’t find on a golf course. This is because it’s much more than a celebration of the golfing green, it’s a celebration of the tranquility and the simplistic beauty of life itself.
Emotion is apparent, nowhere more so than at the album’s conclusion.
The 19th Hole. The number of holes on a golf course is so finitely regimented that this additional hole undoubtedly sits outside of the realms of the natural. The 18 holes being the life cycle of a round of golf, this extra hole must take place apart from that life cycle. After our game of golf has come to an end, and we’ve played our last shot.
ACY’s performance on the closing track definitely supports this existential theory. A track with an austere elegance unlike any other on the album. He blesses the mix with heavenly piano riffs set amidst swirling ambience. The track and the album coming to a close as an oddly comforting robotic voice utters ‘Don’t worry, you are home now’.
This is a brilliant question, and a tough one to answer. But in short, it’s an absolute yes.
It’s not a sport I know an awful lot about, and that’s part of the playfulness of it. There’s definitely a degree of poking a little fun. But on the flipside, there’s a real beauty that accompanies the sport; from the pristine, manicured courses, the stillness of it, the pacing, the precision and skill, right to the clubhouse aesthetics.
Sure, some of these places might seem stuffy. Some of them might BE stuffy. But there’s also this feeling of being somewhere… almost hallowed. The rich wood, the trophy cases, framed photographs of treasured members, past and present.
When it comes to the technicalities of golf and the playing of the sport, don’t go into The 19th Hole expecting to learn the secrets of a perfect swing. You may learn the secrets of the perfect look, you may even be courted by the partner of your dreams right there on the links, but the album doesn’t preoccupy itself by giving an insight into the performance of the sport. Those who listen to genres such as Vaporwave will be used to this. For example, Mallsoft music doesn’t exactly break down the fiscal or economic characteristics of capitalism, it instead attacks the money-centric aura that places like malls represent. Similarly, Alpha Chrome Yayo explores the spirit of golf and the representation of sport in the media, with a few bits of golf terminology chucked in for good measure.
I don’t play golf; I’ve tried it maybe once or twice in my life, a couple of trips to the driving range, that sort of thing. And I suck at it, really bad.
Part of the reason this whole album came about in the first place is, myself and my pal Danny Madigan (who features on Power Drive) joined a local golf club. Not to play, but just to hang out, have food, drink drinks. We’re ‘house members’, so it’s pretty cheap, and they have been completely lovely to us there.
So, you heard it here first, Alpha Chrome Yayo sucks at golf.
The album may not provide any wannabe Phil Mickelson’s with the secret ingredient to a great scorecard, but it does provide a whole lot of entertainment for the listener. But, one has to wonder, from a purely audio entertainment sense, whether the album would attract any knights of the 9 iron. Whether The 19th Hole would pique the interest of any professional princes or princesses of the putter. Judging by this video, a pro-golfer’s taste in music can range anywhere from Fetty Wap to Jimmy Eat World.
Aw who knows! Actually golfing legend Rory McIlroy is from really near me, and I’m sort of tempted to try and get a copy over to him, just to see. I mean, I don’t know him at all, but if there’s any way I can shoot this album into the actual pro golf world that would be the way!
I don’t know, they might hate it haha. I wouldn’t blame them either, there’s a lot of ribbing on it, with the Patrick Bateman style golf-obsessed murderous rapping robots and the multiple sweaters. God, I don’t even know how many times the phrase “v-neck-sweater” appears on this album. Once I tried to count the number of times Andrew WK says “party” on an album and lost track at 50+ and I think this would be something similar.
Actually on that topic, the song Sweater Round The Shoulders (And One For The Waist) comes from seeing a guy at a yacht club wearing that exact combination, as well as an actual sweater just worn normally. Three sweaters. On one hand it was absolutely ludicrous and very (unintentionally) funny, but damn, what a statement.
Three sweaters?! The lifestyle of riches and toxic masculinity moves in such mystic ways…
The 19th Hole is an incredible album. The instrumentation has that rich dynamic that so many of Alpha Chrome Yayo’s albums possess. The artist’s style brings in a screeching guitar or robotic text-to-speech program so confidently that it can prove challenging to keep a grasp on the narrative as the sonic range grows from track to track. But the exploration of this metaphysical golf course, in all its high-class, artificial wonder adds so much to this unique audio experience. It allows the artist to dazzle the listener with nostalgia trips to video games of old and to make them laugh with expertly timed puns and absurd characters. It also allows him to slip in moments of touching musicianship and emotion where the listener may not have been expecting it.
If all this wasn’t enough, the album was available on cassette and minidisc and came with personalised golf tees and your very own club membership card!
Sadly these bundles have all been snatched up, but Alpha Chrome Yayo did say that he might produce more so that we can all get a chance to don those sweaters and head onto the green.
Once you join the 19th Hole, you ain’t never comin’ back, baby… and your membership is pre-approved.
I’ll see you at the clubhouse!
The album is available to purchase in full here: https://alphachromeyayo.bandcamp.com/album/19th-hole