Album Reviews

Ivan The Tolerable: The Aleph

The North East experimentalist returns with his latest LP.

Oli Heffernan is one of the underground voices in the U.K. whose latest releases are never too far away.

The Middlesbrough artist has had another frantic year, releasing The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe’ (Library of the Occult), based on the novel of the same name by D.G Compton. Preceding this was one of the year’s finest releases in Houseplants: the collaboration between Heffernan and Leighton Crook which saw the birth of their second LP, II.

Under his Ivan The Tolerable project, Heffernan draws the curtain on 2022 with not one but two new releases.

While Black Water/Brown Earth is set to drop next month, the current concern is The Aleph, which – prior to next week’s release and exclusive to Sun 13 – you can listen to in full below.

Oli Heffernan · Ivan The Tolerable – The Aleph (Echodelick Records, 2022)

In many ways The Aleph unlocks many doors within the Ivan The Tolerable manor. Up until this point, it wasn’t so obvious, but having spent time with The Aleph, it’s apparent: Oli Heffernan is a world builder.

Whether it’s through the torrents of wild instrumentation (last year’s Autodidac II), or exploring the more subtle intricacies (the aforementioned Katherine Mortenhoe), Heffernan produces the kind of music that projects colours and a wild collection of them. And we reach the peak of the mountain on The Aleph. A journey for escapism and open spaces. Just take a look at the glorious artwork, which in itself tells a story.

As does the glittery cadence of opening composition, Prologue Canto. A synth-based blur with skittish percussion that passes off the kind of hypnotic vibe that forms the vital thread of The Aleph.

Ivan The Tolerable - The Aleph

With rolling rhythms and plucky guitars inspired by Jim White and Mick Turner, on Aleph I Ben Hopkinson’s saxophones are like a siren call from another planet. Or indeed Godhead itself. Well, perhaps not quite. With a title that really doesn’t need an explanation, in all of its engine-powered glory, Godhead is an improv’ joyride, with humid skronk and general motorik madness. Think Neu! on the anabolic goodies.

The next passage of The Aleph is like travelling through an otherworldly portal. With sinewy rhythms and spiky guitars, Black Pyramid is Ivan The Tolerable locked in the groove. Tangled Hair follows and blending Sun Ra-inspired astral jazz with the sweaty lust of Turkish psychedelia, this is meditative psych fit for fever dreams and not atop of some mountain with a yoga class.

Houseplants Interview: “It’s all just about getting my ideas out of my head and moving on”

The Prince of Wits quickly snaps us out of any comfort, as Heffernen unfurls a wicked concoction of sludge jazz akin to Italian masters, Zu. It’s about the loudest The Aleph gets as we seamlessly slide back into a moderate level of ease. Firstly with the eastern drone of All Space Was There, which ends The Aleph. Or does it? It’d be remiss not to mention the album’s the two bonus tracks. While in many cases the world of bonus tracks could be deemed as superfluous, these two gems are nowhere near the bargain bins.

Aleph III is cloud-riding Ivan The Tolerable. Here Heffernan operates in vast spaces with a less-is-more approach, and the result is bleary-eyed beauty. Then there’s The Centre Is Everything which is astral-jazz on the come down; it’s ultimately The Aleph’s sweet stop.

The Aleph is an album Heffernan wouldn’t have written a couple of years ago. As the high-octane freak-outs and withering percussive movements are fleeting, instead Heffernan revels in the sparseness. And in doing so, what he finds is pure fairy dust.

The Aleph is out November 18 via Echodelick Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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