Amidst a sea of moody beats, tin chirps and steady pulses, Alka's "Principles of Suffocation" sets out to create a multifaceted landscape to envelope listeners. The solely instrumental album from Alka, the pseudonym of Bryan Michael, "Principles of Suffocation" progresses slowly as light synthesizer melodies are overlaid with swirling tempos and careful arrangements.
Delicate tracks, such as "Side of a Mountain" and "I Fell Down A Very Long Well," are dreamy while still driving with insistence as Alka reiterate the same idea in several variations, each with its own garnishes to set each song apart. But by the time Alka reaches the latter half of the album, rhythms become rougher and quicker. Choppy samples and a scratchy beat makes for a stiff and bristly "Tesla" while "Digging A Hole" offers a slower, more intense version of the sound with a soft, faraway melody playing lightly in the background.
It is easy to imagine Michael in the position common to most electronic artists, bent over his keyboard and laptop, driven by his creativity and his passion to reach a precise sound, style and feeling. But with his attention so focused on his synthetic instruments, it is easy for Michael to get stuck with tunnel vision and forget the world around him. Alka's "Principles of Suffocation" deliver just what the album's title promises, in a way, as the twelve tracks steadily apply pressure but rarely develop into anything but what they are. There is no time for a gasp of fresh air as Alka keeps you thoroughly submerged.