Peel Dream Magazine: Agitprop Alterna (Slumberland) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, August 10th, 2020  

Peel Dream Magazine

Agitprop Alterna


Apr 17, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Peel Dream Magazine began life in 2017 as the DIY musical project of NYC composer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Stevens. The debut album Modern Music Meta Physic, in which Stevens pretty much played every instrument, garnered favorable critical reviews and now Stevens has expanded the concept to a four-piece band. 

For their second album, Agitprop Alterna, Stevens has adopted a much more collaborative approach, working with close friend and musician Kelly Winrich, drummer Brian Alvarez, and vocalist Jo-Anne Hyun (who has since been replaced by Isabella Mingione in the band’s lineup). 

At times Agitprop Alterna can sound like a lost cult ‘90s album, which is no bad thing. However it’s actually not a backwards-looking album, there’s a futuristic quality to it both sonically and thematically. And there’s certainly no lack of ambition, on Peel dream Machine’s Bandcamp page Stevens explains: “I wanted to talk about the current popular music scene through the eyes of Bertolt Brecht, who warned that audiences become susceptible to mind-control when they take popular art at face value.” 

Album opener “Pill” employs the similar woozy disorientating rush utilised by My Bloody Valentine albeit without the sonic annihilation. The dazzling ”Emotional Devotion Creation” has the propulsive thrust of Stereolab replete with vocals that recall the hypnotically understated urgency of Lætitia Sadier. Escalator Ism” isn’t a million miles away from the likes of Ride in their pomp whilst “It’s My Body” sounds not unlike Lush’s Miki Berenyi dueting with Chapterhouse. It’s apparently an “anthem against people who want to exert power over you and make you feel small…a reminder that you don’t owe anyone anything.”

Although it’s fun to search for musical reference points, Agitprop Alterna is an album that stands on its own two feet due to the sheer quality of the songwriting. There are moments, however, when you wish the band would really let rip and crank it up to 11 on tracks such as “NYC Illuminati” and “Eyeballs,” which are both sublime but have the potential to be more magnificent if there were a few more sonic thunderbolts thrown into the mix. It’s certainly an excellent follow up to Modern Music Meta Physic and you sense that album three could well be a classic. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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