Hard-Hitting Art-Rock and Chamber Pop from AK

by delarue

AK are not an Alaskan band, nor are they a gangsta rap project with an automatic rifle for a logo. AK are a tuneful, purist chamber pop/art-rock group fronted by singer/keyboardist Alexandra Kalinowski. The group – which also includes violinist Hajnal Pivnick, clarinetist Lindsey Cosgrove, bassist Carl Limbacher and drummer Ross Marshall – have a new album, How Not to Be Alone, streaming at Bandcamp and a release show on March 23 at 4 (four) PM at the small room at the Rockwood. If the rest of the set is anything like the four tracks on the ep, it’s going to be intense.

Kalinowski has an insistent, hard-hitting, dancing attack on the piano and a soaring voice that she sometimes modulates carefully, other times she’ll cut loose with a full-throttle, practically operatic wail. Her arrangements for strings and winds are clever and emphatic. The album’s first track, Circles has her cascading down the piano to an aptly cyclical riff. “Not every end is as good as we started,” she asserts, then an ornately multitracked choir of voices mimics the pizzicato of a violin. It’s a neat touch.

The second track, Electricity builds from hints of gospel to an ominously rising rage, the strings echoing the angst in the vocals: “I have told you everything and been misunderstood.” Florida follows a similar upward trajectory from a nebulous solo piano intro to an absolutely killer orchestral arrangement with flitting flute cadenzas and lush string glissandos – it seems to be a lament for a long-dead affair. The final cut, Pusher is the most pop-oriented but also the angriest song here: “He pushes the pen toward my dying right hand,” Kalinowski wails. There hasn’t been a short album this good on this page in awhile: a lot of righteous wrath and intelligence here, which the band probably takes up a notch onstage.