Aleph were an Australian symphonic-rock band from Sydney that released the album Surface Tension on Atlantic in 1977. Alongside Chetarca, Sebastian Hardie, and Ragnarok, Aleph were front-runners in the antipodean response to the U.K. symphonic heavyweights of the era (Yes, Genesis, ELP, Camel).

Members: Mary Jane Carpenter (keyboards), Ron Carpenter (drums), David Froggatt (guitar), Mary Hansen (keyboards), Dave Highet (bass), Joe Walmsley (vocals)

Aleph formed in 1974 and were active in the Sydney area for nearly four years. Drummer Ron Carpenter played in an early incarnation of AC/DC but never recorded with the band. The other members of Aleph were fresh on the music scene.

In 1977, Aleph released their singular album Surface Tension on Atlantic (Australia). Side one features four songs, including “Banshee,” “Morning,” and “Man Who Fell.” The bulk of side two is taken by the epic “Mountaineer” (14:38). Prominent features of the music include the Squire-esque bass-lines of Dave Highet, the tight guitar interjections of David Froggatt, and the soaring vocals of Joe Walmsley. The album was produced by Paul Goodwin (Headband, Crossfire) and mixed by Kiwi engineer Wahanui Wynyard (The Bluestars, The Smoke, Buffalo, Finch).

Also in 1977, Aleph issued the non-album single “Little Games” (b/w “Of the Essence”).

Ron Carpenter notched technical credits on 1978–80 albums by First Light and the Takeaways. Highet appeared on a 1986 one-off EP with the pop combo Your Fanatics. Froggatt resurfaced a decade after Aleph as a writer/arranger for Jimmy Barnes and The 12th Man.

Surface Tension was reissued in 2001 by Korean archivists M2U and again in 2020 by UK specialists ProgRiver.



1 thought on “Aleph

  1. Revisiting Surface Tension this morning, my original ruby/amethyst rankings of the tracks holds firm. Sound-wise, Aleph’s most frontal traits are the crisp bass work and piano runs, in addition to the Colin Carter-esque vocals. However, a closer listen to the lengthy “Mountaineer” reveals sensitive appropriations of all instruments involved — measured drum fills; oozing synths and Mellotron backdrops during the pastoral mid-section; alternately lyrical/filigree-laden guitar lines throughout. The highlights of the album are the intensified third section of the aforementioned epic (8:40-mark onward) as well as the opening “Banshee” and the taut, angular “Morning.”

    Comparisons to fellow Oceanic symphonic bands (Sebastian Hardie, Chetarca, early Dragon, et al.) are irrelevant, though I do hear a melodic overlap between a lyrical refrain in “Banshee” and Sherbet’s concurrent “Still In Love With You,” which could only be a coincidence.

    Of the purples, “Man Who Fell” ropes in a straighter hard rock influence, with blocky Hammond chords that recall the earlier ’70s. I can see why this would be the standout to some listeners. I remain rather unmoved by “Heaven’s Archaepelago,” which works pastoral territory without much thematic development — one of those tracks that lingers in intro-land for the bulk of its length.

    Due to the closing track’s intriguing title, I tried to pay closer attention to the lyrics on that number, but couldn’t decipher much; perhaps the primary consequence of the emotive yet high-pitched vocals — an admittedly acquired taste for some listeners.

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