There are moments on Alone, Not Alone that could preface an evening at the symphony. Though the second album from Montreal's Montag (née Antoine Bédard) holds a layer of whimsy that lingers below its often moody electronic compositions bleeps, swirling static sounds and echo effects contribute to the album's '60s-inspired playfulness its sound is held firmly in place by a grave seriousness.
Critics in the know gushed over M83's lush keyboard manifesto Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts; the Montag pseudonym can be found in that album's credits, as Bédard composed and executed its sweeping string parts. Alone, Not Alone is also augmented by Bédard's organic arrangements of strings and other instruments, and a host of hipsters takes part in filling out his Stereolab-esque meanderings into atmospherically spirited pop.
Amy Millan (Stars, Broken Social Scene) assists over warm organ tones, cymbal washes and looped discotheque beats on "Perfect Vision." Millan's gorgeous leads don't overshadow Ariel Engle, who offers the album's first motivational video-type mantra, "Your life hasn't started yet," in "Grand Luxe." With additional appearances from Sixtoo and Broadcast's James Cargill, the lengthy guest list mirrors the album's many roads and a man at the wheel not exactly sure where to go at times.
Alone, Not Alone is a bit inconsistent because a solid groove never surfaces; rather it's hinted at partway through the songs. The stellar, morphing "Temps Partiel" (not exactly Françoise Hardy, but just as delicate) best illustrates this: Bédard's ability to begin something in a busy fashion and conclude it in a whispering lull is a persistent theme of Alone. It's a fanciful effort, but too serious at times.