Glasgow-based techno producer Alex Smoke made his name crafting glitchy microhouse tracks with a cinematic sense of drama and a flair for rich, emotive melodies, reflecting his classical training as a child. His first three full-lengths were filled with six- or seven-minute dancefloor mini-epics as well as shorter pieces, and he progressively incorporated more of his own vocals into his music. Following more experimental albums as Wraetlic and Alex Menzies (his given name), Smoke released Love Over Will, his first full-length for Belgian institution R&S, in early 2016. The album is much more concise and focused than his previous work, with none of the songs exceeding four minutes in length, and nearly all of them featuring Smoke's deep, dusky vocals which recall Matthew Dear and Nicolas Jaar, fellow dance music producers who use the album format to showcase more song-oriented home-listening material. This isn't to say there aren't danceable tracks on Love Over Will, but Smoke uses unconventional rhythms and places his forlorn vocals and confessional lyrics up front. He expresses a desire to be rich and famous on "Dire Need," and pleads "don't wanna be with anyone else" on both the frantic "Dust" (during which his vocals are scrambled and electrocuted) and the dreary "All My Atoms." It almost seems like he's fading into his own sense of desperation and longing on standout cut "LossGain," which layers his distorted vocals with anxious synths and jittery yet swinging beat patterns. He steps away from the microphone on the slow, rustling "Galdr" (which contains mournful cello and tense synths) and the album's gripping title track, which builds up a heartbeat-like rhythm and dramatic horns signaling coming danger, showering them with bursts of short-circuiting static noises. The songs' brevity is alarming; it feels like Smoke could've easily expanded on the songs and drawn them out, but he opted for immediacy in order to expunge the thoughts from his head as quickly as possible. The result is an attention-grabbing album that reaches inward and artfully delivers vulnerable thoughts through sharply honed production skills.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson