November 18, 2016 Alice and the Glass Lake – CHIMÆRA (Album Review)
Life has its share of tragedy and heartbreak, but within it all, there is hope and light. Proving that even the most bleak of situations should not deter one’s dreams and aspirations, Alicia Lemke overcame obstacles to meet her destiny as a singer, songwriter, and performing artist. With a strong desire to make music, the Wisconsin native used her creative impulses to conjure up the vision known as Alice and the Glass Lake, a fantasy land soundscape of Ambient Rock. Beginning the musical endeavor back in 2010, she soon relocated to New York City sometime thereafter to expand her horizons. Playing in and around New York City, Lemke’s Alice and the Glass Lake quickly gained a lot of attention on the scene. In fact, she was even awarded the opportunity to perform on a side stage outside a Fleetwood Mac concert at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, New York on June 22, 2013.
Armed with her five track EP, entitled Evolution, Alice and the Glass Lake’s music was both invigorating to the soul, as well as stimulating to the senses. Laying the groundwork for a bright future, it was only a matter of time before Lemke’s angelic voice and dream-like melodies found her rising to the top of super-stardom. Working hard and keeping her eye on the prize, Lemke kept her health issues concealed from public eye, only wanting her music to be the main focus of attention. Honorable and respectable, it recently came out she battled with leukemia, and tragically passed on August 9, 2015. Only 28 years of age, Lemke had her whole life ahead of her, and those who knew her say she was a pleasant, caring, as well as a down to earth human being. Saddening to hear of her passing, the story of Alice and the Glass Like does live on through her music, and on November 18, 2016, her debut full-length album finally sees the light of day. Entitled CHIMÆRA, it is a collection of eleven tracks which were written and recorded during Lemke’s struggle with her illness. Not letting her disease define her or perish her hopes, Lemke’s colorful spirit shined through on each of the songs offered on this posthumous album.
Opening the exploration into the world of Alice and the Glass Like, “I Imagine” comes in gently with Lemke’s voice followed by echoing guitar notes. Ambient, the structure builds with drums before being joining by her entrancing voice. Acting as an invitation to explore this dream-like realm, the beat picks up with “Echo” as steady drums, delicate backing vocals, and a catchy guitar melody enters. Completed with Lemke’s main vocal over the top, she sings about leaving troubles behind and finding new life. Taking the mood back down with tingling sound effects, “Can’t Do That” plays for nearly a minute before Lemke’s voice enters. Certainly containing a sorrowful tone, the structure of the track is simply breathtaking before kicking in nearly two minutes later with full instrumentation.
Like a sweet dream, CHIMÆRA is the type of slumber no one would want to be awaken from, and “Air” continues it along seamlessly. Featuring a more upfront vocal of Lemke, a singular guitar is tucked in the backdrop as she comes on like a fairy whispering delicately in your ear. Showing more Pop sensibility, “Apart at the Seams” has a fitting tone for radio airplay. No less effective than the other songs, the potent beat and warm textures could find Alice and the Glass Lake in heavy rotation amidst the likes of Lorde, Phantogram, and Broods. Speaking of which, the album’s lead single, “Coals,” comes next and also has a very spiritually uplifting vibe. Accompanied by a music video filmed prior to Lemke’s passing, the visuals match the songs purposes flawlessly. A purpose that express the notion that one needs to find the fire within themselves to truly set themselves free and uncover their potential.
Like water flowing downstream, the silky smooth textures keep coming with “Supernova” as Lemke’s voice dances around with ease. Then, with a more dramatic approach, “Beast” talks about further self-reflection and finding tranquility in the chaos that make us who we are. Also containing the most amplified guitar solo of the record, the song shows a different side of Alice and the Glass Lake, one that is comfortable with more Rock leaning composition. A wonderful peak to match the valleys, the quieter “Begin” returns to Lemke’s base as subtleties take over. Remaining this way through most of the song, the lyrics give the sense of renewal and cleansing of any negativity. Finding the balance between the more mellow and louder tones, “Distance” comes next, and it is perfect exploration into sound as guitars and drums become one with Lemke’s voice.
Sadly, in the dawn, we all must awaken, and as weary eyes begin to open, “Asking” concludes the album. An awe-inspiring piece, the music and lyrics are quite haunting. Seeming as if the dream is over, the truly mesmerizing moments come once the main song dissipates, and a minute later, a hidden piece emerges. It is here Lemke opens herself up even more to listeners, no doubt speaking of her struggle with leukemia, and the emotions she was experiencing. Quite vivid, she bravely confesses and transitions to the unknown. Ear-tingling and majestic, like that, it ends, but Alice and the Glass Lake’s spirit remains.
Taking a moment to exhale, there are not enough words to describe the beautiful listening experience that is CHIMÆRA. An extremely talented songwriter, Lemke’s ability to craft poetic and spiritually uplifting words is impeccable. Furthermore, she has successfully created this alternative world in her music where there is an illusion of warmth, safety, and endless possibilities. Lemke admitted that some outsiders led her to believe she should turn to a more Pop approach with her music, but thankfully, she stayed true to her artistic vision. Some stars burn out before they truly get a chance to shine, and there is no doubt that Alice and the Glass Lake would have burned bright. This in mind, while Alicia Lemke is no longer with us in a physical sense, she is most certainly still with us spiritually, and CHIMÆRA is her eternal connection to the living world. A must listen, CrypticRock gives CHIMÆRA 5 out of 5 stars.