All this time I’d thought (Sandy) Alex G (a.k.a. Alex Giannascoli) was haplessly clutching to his lo-fi foundations when, in fact, he’d been tactfully reinventing them completely. Giannascoli has long been one of the most creative and interesting figures in lo-fi indie. He’s released a number of the genre’s finest works this decade; Rules and Trick both showed a talented songwriter with clear reverence of Elliott Smith; DSU and Rocket messed around with broader styles and growing depths of instrumentation, spinning out like subtly experimental and mostly excellent sound palettes.

And yet, Giannascoli’s reverb-flushed vocals and wild snippets of stylistic unpredictability were beginning to feel like pretexts for his hesitation to properly venture into hi-fi recording and production. Perhaps pessimistically, I thought Giannascoli may forever confine himself to his own indie lo-fi haven.

House of Sugar proves me wrong. Not only does it rubbish the idea that Giannascoli was ever restricted to a lo-fi sound, but it’s so decisively triumphant that it transforms how one hears his previous records. It dawns on lead single ‘Gretel’, where the production is so immaculately measured to the point of indietronica, that House of Sugar is clearly the impressive zenith built of a series of long term progressions over the course of his (still young) career. House of Sugar feels directly descended from a host of Giannascoli’s previous releases, and yet it also definitively surpasses all of them.

House of Sugar itself is split into three rather distinct chunks that are in equal parts nostalgic, culminative and forward-looking. The first four or so tracks blister through as one of the finest sequence of tracks in indie this decade. The opening howls of ‘Walk Away’ make Giannascoli appear almost casual, though the rest of the track goes on to immaculately juggle detailed synths, squealing electric guitars, delicate banjo leads, background chants and underlying piano. One can only marvel at the instrumental layering and phasing as every instrument manages to peek out its respect nose. Whether it’s the strings, subtle electronica and chipmunked vocals on ‘Gretel’, the percussive acoustic guitar and celestial synths on ‘Hope’ or the featherweight, steady accordion on ‘Southern Sky’, every instrument adds something invaluable and purposeful. These opening tracks are the clearest descendants of anything off of Giannascoli’s previous few records, only with their songwriting and production perfected.

Then House of Sugar takes a left turn. Without failing to sustain its meticulous production, Giannascoli opts for more experimental cuts. ‘Taking’, ‘Project 2’ and ‘Sugar’ are purely instrumental neo-psychedelic romps but, due to the deliberate, calculated shrouding of noise running throughout, they never feel out of step with the rest of the record. Music under the (Sandy) Alex G moniker has always been difficult to categorise, mostly due to its wide variations in style. This middle section of House of Sugar, however, is so multifaceted and inimitable that it’s nigh-impossible to single out any primary genres or influences.

Yet, the record’s final third couldn’t be more different. After the huge, warped, art-rock-ish ‘Sugar’, Giannascoli settles down to show off his humbler indie folk influences. Giannascoli holds his ground with a style that clearly descends from his earlier material. Tinged again with his distinctive production style, they feel like straightforward, well-written folk tracks, only plumped up with more gentle sonic warping.

As rigid as that overarching structure might seem, the sequencing and transitions between tracks ensure House of Sugar flows seamlessly (the only standout being the final track ‘Sugar House (Live), which stylistically could have been lifted off of Springsteen’s Nebraska). Giannascoli takes his listener through his back catalogue, marking out each work as part of a trajectory more clearly than on any of his other releases. In that fashion, House of Sugar is not only special because it is the most consistent, detailed, adventurous Alex G record so far, but because it also clarifies what Giannascoli has been working towards all along and positions itself as an opus of one of this decade’s most defining indie artists.