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Deaf-Child’s Epic Debut Deconstructs 2020

deaf-child

Deaf-Child is the solo musical project of composer and multi-instrumentalist producer, Alex Legge. He is a professionally trained ethnomusicologist, music therapist, and psychiatrist. Although music plays a central role in both his personal and professional lives, recording his own original work stayed on the backburner during the young doctor’s years of study.

As did all things, that changed in 2020. Alex worked on the front lines during the peak of the pandemic. He saw the impact it had on those who were hardest hit. And he saw the impact it had on him as well. The music therapist headed to the studio to process, and to heal.

He emerged with Hindsight TwentyTwenty, the 16-track debut album by Deaf-Child. Released worldwide via all major streaming services on February 2, 2022, the record takes listeners on an epic, genre-smashing journey. It’s an emotional and musically exhilarating ride.

Although the record is a concept album, the narrative is left open to interpretation. Deaf-Child tells his tale in implications and inferences, rather than linear prose. The words and music are not separate entities joined together in harmony. They are but pieces of a greater whole. And like the broken and beautiful world that inspired it, the record defies any sort of restrictive classifications.

On the album, Deaf-Child weaves experimental electronic music, jazz, world beat and alternative into a deeply immersive experience. From the hypnotic staccato percussion and Zappa-esque quirky virtuosity of the opener “Look”, to the classical/trip-hop mash-up if the emotional climax “Timeless Void, or Where The Time Loop Operator Pulls the Strings of Time (In the Underbelly of the Basilica)”, the album connects with us at a visceral level. 

Hindsight TwentyTwenty‘s song titles are all part of the tapestry. Alex is a smart guy. He weaves suggestions of personal and social commentaries in and out his songs, without directly revealing them. His story is often cryptic, at times funny, and at others deadly serious. Voices speak, sing, and scream. Sometimes they are crystal clear, while oftentimes they are intentionally indecipherable.

The colors in Deaf-Child’s palette run the musical spectrum, from freeform jazz to 80s-inspired electro-pop. There is a three-part ‘Time Loop’ arc for instance that pairs breakbeat drums with classical piano in ‘Loop I’, and drops some Hendrix-guitar-like synths in ‘Loop II’. ‘Loop III’ is a gorgeous and chaotic conceptual mix of Gene Krupa-esque drums, electronic mayhem, and John Lennon’s “Revolution #9”. It’s a powerful moment.

“Shouldn’t Have Been Such a Doucebag” sounds like some wonderful long lost collaboration between Howard Jones and Stan Ridgeway. “Arachnid” could easily have come from the score of a Wes Craven movie, set in an 80’s arcade. And the track “All-Traumatic All-American Eyes…” recalls the avant-garde electronica genius of The Residents’ early experiments.

Through all of the album’s stylistic explorations, Deaf-Child never loses sight of the story. It’s all ‘the story’. Each blip, burp, riff and fill is there to add hue to a musically sophisticated and emotionally nuanced record. It’s an abstract and complicated tale, but we get it. Because, we were there.

Listen to Hindsight TwentyTwenty in its entirety below, or listen on your favorite streaming service. You can also hear selected tracks on the Deep Indie Dive, Deep Indie Chill and Deep Indie Jazz playlists. We had the chance to chant with Alex Legge about the album. Check out his answers to our 7 questions below. And follow the links at the end of this article to connect with Deaf-Child.

7 Questions with Deaf-Child

deaf-child

Where are you from?

I grew up in Minneapolis and lived in New Orleans for a few years, but for over a decade my home has been New York.

How long have you been making music?

I remember fiddling around on my parents’ upright piano when I was really young, but I really started writing music when I was about 12 years old. So I guess it’s been 25 years that I’ve been making music, a quarter century.

Who are the musicians involved in your project?

For all intents and purposes, I’m the only musician involved in deaf-child. I write, perform/produce and mix all the parts for all the songs. I’ve had a little help in terms of feedback and mastering from a few folks, mostly buddies from undergrad with whom I was once in a number of live bands.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

My musical influences are pretty wide-ranging – a lot of classic things that everyone would expect, like the Beatles…a lot of world music, especially from west Africa, India, and southeast Asia…a lot of jazz and fusion.

I was on an ambient music kick for many years. But it’s really well-produced electronic/pop and 90s rock that I’m a special sucker for. I also love anything with unique chord changes, whether it’s Nirvana, John Coltrane, or an ethnomusicologist’s field recording of a throat singer.

What is your greatest non-musical influence?

My greatest non-musical influence is probably my father. He’s just a very open-minded person who listens to other people and genuinely cares about them. That’s the kind of person I’ve always aimed to be, and it’s helped lead me to the experiences that inspired me to produce hindsight twentytwenty.

What inspired you to create this project?

I am a resident physician in psychiatry, currently in my final year of residency. The spring of my first year was 2020, when the city of New York suffered unimaginable tragedy and immense loss. I ended up getting re-deployed from my work in psychiatry to COVID floors. This was a very challenging time. 

I hadn’t played much music during the previous 4 years in med school, but the pandemic changed the equation. There were a lot of emotions to process, a lot of ideas to express. With hindsight twentytwenty, I think I mostly accomplished what I was trying to say. More importantly, I love listening to it myself. That’s an important aspect for any artist, I think – loving one’s own work, at least on some level.

What are your plans for the future (musically)?

My musical plans for the future are to keep loving music and writing music here and there as a side project. I might get back into playing with a live group, but I imagine I’ll be writing music as deaf-child for many years, albeit sporadically. As long as I have emotions to process, I’ll have music to write.

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Bob Smith

Bob is a musician, writer and generally groovy dude. Like his work? Buy him a coffee!

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