Solidifying his status as a DIY titan, with eight full-lengths to his name – plus the honour of collaborating with Frank Ocean on 2016 albums ‘Blonde’ and ‘Endless’ – (Sandy) Alex G has packed plenty into his past decade of music-making. The Philadelphia musician’s word-of-mouth ascent began in his teens, starting with 2010 cassette ‘Race’. Since then, he has steadily polished his determinedly off-kilter sound while still serving up some unexpected, often unhinged, moments of brilliance.
Tonight’s (15 February) show at Hove’s The Old Market totally encapsulates what makes (Sandy) Alex G – formerly just Alex G, real name Alex Giannascoli – so special. There are periods of tightly-constructed musical wizardry, as well as moments of unpredictable frenzy. He and his three-piece backing band somehow navigate these two modes with barely a pause.
One second, they’re perfectly in time, playing the heartfelt ‘In My Arms’, a standout from 2019 LP ‘House of Sugar’. The next, Alex deadpan declares “this is an original song” before breaking into the dissonant noise of ‘Brick’. The latter has always picked up justified comparisons to Death Grips, and it’s the closest the Old Market comes to mimicking the havoc Storm Dennis is causing outside.
There are plenty more tricks up his sleeve to come: ‘Bad Man’ is a truly oddball country song that sounds like it’s being played at double speed and on ‘Sportstar’ he takes to the keys to play gorgeous, cascading piano notes. He masters carefully constructed songs that would sound accomplished in the hands of an A-List pop star – some of the musicianship here is second to none – but he can also spend five minutes playing chords that sound verge close to being out of key. And all of this in the space of two hours, during which it seems like he’s spinning a wheel of fortune and picking tracks out of a hat. Indeed, the final third of the set is dictated by buoyant fan requests.
It’s difficult to find another musician equally as capable of the sublime as the surprising. (Sandy) Alex G could easily spend the next few decades putting out low-key classics for his fans to feast over, or he could continue to work with stars such as Ocean and perhaps even mimic fellow indie stalwarts The National and The War on Drugs by stepping up to arenas and big-money labels. Tonight suggests he suits the former, staying put as a cult hero with seemingly limitless creativity.
(Sandy) Alex G’s setlist:
‘In My Arms’