ARC are Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve, two veterans of the UK electronic music scene. Their music is deeply routed in the traditions of the German synthesizer music of the 1970's and as such they employ a vast range of vintage analog equipment not the least of which is Shreeve's massive Moog IIIC modular system. Although this is the duos sixth CD release their concert appearances are rare occurrences with only three prior performances. So when the duo were asked to play at the Gatherings concert series in Philadelphia organized by the Stars End radio show host Chuck van Zyl the logistics of staging such a show were considerable. Boddy had performed in Philadelphia four times previously (three times at the Gatherings and once with Robert Rich) and so knew there was an enthusiastic audience for this style of electronic music. However this was Shreeve's first Stateside concert and with the impracticality of transporting so much vintage gear the duo were helped out by three local musicians who kindly lent the duo several synthesizers as well as analog modular & sequencing systems.
- Church [21:34]
- Bliss Plane [14:01]
- Torch [10:57]
- Veil [10:19]
- Falling Through to Rapture [17:38]
The concert itself was staged at St.Mary's Church in Philadelphia on 14th November 2009 which was a suitably atmospheric venue for the electronic music of ARC. The five long tracks span the range of structured melodic sections, classically inspired space chords to improvised sequencer work-outs and prove once again that Shreeve & Boddy are masters of this form of electronic music. Four of the tracks are completely new material with the fifth, Falling Through to Rapture having at it's core the sequencer section from the title track of the duo's last studio album Rapture preceded and followed by two glorious sections of vast, spacey Mellotron chords. The multi-track recording from the concert have been mixed and mastered by Shreeve to provide the listener with a thrilling ring side seat at was an inspired performance by this duo.
2010. Press Information
This release from 2010 offers 74 minutes of potent electronic music.
Arc is two British synthesists: Ian Boddy on synthesizers and software, and Mark Shreeve (from Redshift) on synthesizers and sequencing.
Okay, technically Arc isn't an American band--but this release documents their Gatherings concert at St. Mary's Church in Philadelphia on November 14, 2009.
Known for their dynamic style of electronic music, the band does not disappoint with this outing.
The first track (the longest, at nearly 22 minutes) is the title piece and does a superb job of capturing a cathedral disposition with divine texturals and mounting keyboards of distinct puissance. Sedately beats (punctuated by grand bell knolls) provide a reverent boost, endowing the tune with a majestic flavor. Ah, but this is only an intro that ushers the audience into a pool of gurgling diodes, which in turn is but a lead-in to a pastoral passage of airy keyboards blended with understated rhythms. And suddenly things erupt with vitality and an increase of velocity as sequencers belt out crystalline riffs which scamper through the rafters and achieve a timbre rich enough to rattle the house of worship. Again, things switch mode abruptly, entering a ricocheting cadence that escalates into an epic cascade of unbridled electronics. The tune settles down as it approaches its conclusion, but not before tantalizing the audience with a few last minute surprises.
The next piece adopts a steadier flow with twinkling keys and bouncy rhythms. The melody achieves an uninterrupted progression as the performers concentrate on comfortable riffs that glisten with pleasant charisma.
Next, the electronics explore some inventive sounds which are summarily harnessed into a delightfully controlled frenzy. Nimble-fingered keys generate lavish chords that coalesce into a blinding fury of beatific glory that persists in compounding until the wonder is nigh excruciating.
The fourth track offers another dose of swiftly intensifying riffs that spiral though progressions of a heavenly nature.
The final piece continues the band's approach of determined escalation, establishing a relentless series of bewitching passages--with a few tactical lulls thrown in to allow things to build anew to fresh pinnacles of eminence.
A magnificent selection of breathtaking EM.
2010. Matt Howarth / Sonic Curiosity
After the download-only release "Rise", "Church" is a factory-pressed full-length cd featuring five extended tracks played live during Gatherings Concert Series in November 2009.
The recording offers some highly energetic, powerful, state-of-the-art ARC-music that fans of their music can purchase without hesitation.
Just imagine the duo’s improvised manner of sequencing, topped by some evocative space chords and melodic lines, and you’re more than halfway what the music on "Church" is all about.
Of the five pieces, four are completely new material, very nicely kicked off by the 21-minute "Church", which sets the tone with expansive symphonic textures, bell sounds, atmospheric and bubbling interludes and of course their top-notch vintage sequencing and moody soundscapes.
The final 17-minute piece "Falling Through to Rapture" contains a new version of just the sequencer section from the title track of their last album "Rapture", expertly rounded out by some vast and massive Mellotron chord tapestries.
The multi-track recording from the concert have been mixed and mastered by Mr Shreeve to provide the listener a thrilling and highly inspired performance.
All in all, "Church" is another must-have for anyone who’s looking for smoking analogues and another exciting ride to "vintage heaven".
Bert Strolenberg / Sonic Immersion
This is all new music recorded live at a Gatherings concert in November 2009.
We begin with the title track. A church bell chimes out then an ominous three beat rhythm and high hat create quite a chilling feel. The rhythms solidify over Mellotron backing. Unusually though, instead of the comforting warm tones associated with that instrument a rather unsettling mood is created. This is a highly impressive start to the album, making me wonder where we go from here. The rhythm disappears and we descend to swirling misty effects. A deep pulse which morphs this way and that is joined by a sequence and lovely lead line. The growling sequence explodes. We are now hurtling forward at breakneck speed, another sequence joining the first. There is no sense of improvisation. Every note seems to be carefully composed though the excitement and energy created is quite amazing. Things then started to subside and I thought we were winding down for an atmospheric interlude but no. Instead more sequences enter, coming in waves. A fresh lead really lets rip and if anything the excitement level is cranked up still further. Absolutely amazing stuff right up to the rather apocalyptic sounding ending!
So ‘Bliss Plane’, has rather a difficult act to follow. The opening moments are very encouraging though as a brace of sequences, one rapid and tinkling, the other incredibly bass laden making for a forceful start. The more high register of the two is quite melodic, morphing this way and that fitting in beautifully with a stunning but quite mournful lead line. The sequences are in constant flux, rising and falling, morphing as they go, weaving their own wonderful melodies. Brilliant, just brilliant.
‘Torch’ has a brief atmospheric opening section then a deep bass pulse enters, being felt as much as heard. This is replaced by an equally devastating sequence, the beefiest on the album so far (and that is saying something!). The pure energy that is created as we are surrounded by an avalanche of pulsations is quite awesome. As with all the tracks here there is plenty of movement, things are never left to just run. This number packs one hell of a punch.
‘Veil’ sets the scene with echoing note droplets then in comes a big twangy bass line which is contrasted by a shimmering silken lead. All is then change as a rapid no nonsense sequence bursts through. There is a sort of brooding menace to it all juxtapositional by almost whimsical piano lead and sighing pads. Then things get even heavier with the introduction of crashing beats but once again we get a lighter contrast with a rapid higher register sequence, symphonic flourishes and a lead melody that would not have been out of place on ‘Crash Head’! Yet another absolutely awesome piece of music.
‘Falling through to Rapture’ initially mixes cosmic twitters with string type pads. A wonderful understated melody hovers in the middle of the mix. Every sequence on this album is amazing but the one deployed now is probably the best of the lot, sounding a bit like a hurtling steam train. A new lead line accompanies it at a similar speed. It is as if they are fencing, one stabbing while the other parries. A quite amazing track on an equally outstanding album.
Unbelievably given the quality of the Arc albums already released, this is the best so far. Quite simply, an essential album to have in your collection.
Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve played a phenomenal show at The Gathering in Philadelphia in November 2009, judging from the results on Church.
The title track begins powerfully, with deep, booming drums and dark mellotron strings. Things then give way to a low rumbling ambience and a few space twitters. A single bass note then sets a slow tempo, followed by a warm flute synth as the bass line starts dancing around just a bit. Inevitably, the sequencer takes charge and raises the energy level. In the right hands, the retro EM sound never really gets old, and this is as good as anything these guys have put out before, which is saying something.
"Bliss Plane" sounds like the aliens have landed as it begins. Deep bass and strange otherworldly popping drumbeats add to the cool vibe. This one is equal parts modern and retro skillfully joined together, another energy-filled romp.
"Torch" begins in a more ambient realm but a pulsating bass line slowly morphs into another hypnotic sequence. A lone synth playfully starts "Veil", then soft brushes of percussion and pleasant flutes. It grows powerful, almost menacing, quite dramatic without going over the top. This brings us to the closer, a variation on "Rapture" from their last album, full of subtle textures for the first several minutes before the sequencing once again takes center stage for the remainder, allowing a couple of minutes of softer music at the end for the audience to catch their breath. Church is sensational.
2010. Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
During Arc last gigs in the US, the English duet gave two performances, one at St.Mary's Church in Philadelphia on 14th November 2009 and the other one in the WXPN radio station locals within the framework of Chuck van Zyl radio show Star’s End. Of this last concert, rather intimate we have to admit it, came the Rise album. An album with more atmospheric tendencies. While the one at the church; Church proposes a sharply more aggressive album. In fact Church is magic. The duet Boddy / Shreeve manages to draw a superb performance where Church soaks fully in the dogmatic mysteries of religions. A strong opus which exceeds all what Arc produced to date. A wonder for EM Berlin School style and one of the top 2010 albums!
The title track opens with a distant wind to sinister curves. Small bells and bigger ones resound behind this mystic foggy where the breath of inquisition intrigues follows the hilly architectures of the holy walls. A dramatic intro where the intensity increases gradually with its synths to wrapping mellotron strata and hedging of soft melodies, beneath striking of percussions deserving of encouragements for rowers of old Spanish galleons. A haughtiness Gregorian intro where symphonic and angelic synths shine under stunning and mesmerizing strikes of percussions. At around the 6th minute point, we float in a sound abyssal which quietly redefines the rhythmic structure where the musical world of Arc appears as if by magic; low stealthily hesitating sequences, mellotron synth to fluty oniric breaths and crystalline chords which mold a brief fanciful dance. A set-up for a surge of sequences where heavy chords shape a loud cadence accompanied with a synth filled of blows overflowing synergy split between the melody and the fascination. Little by little, these sonorities clear up to make us dive into the glaucous universe of Arc where tempos prevaricate between the constancy and its ambient corridors, in a tumult of heterogeneous tones which form hybrid and secondary rhythms in the main conceptual schema. A long title which entrains us, as roller coaster of which the end is unknown us. This is some great inspiring Arc there swimming in his full musical delirious state, as the spirit we find on the delicious Fracture.
Delicate felted percussions on a keyboard with notes which flutter on crystal wings, Bliss Plane progresses on a sequencer to soft minimalism pulsations and others pulses more biting, aggressive but aleatories. Flirting between a boundless rhythm and another more steady, Bliss Plane portrays the repertory of the rhythmic duality proper to Arc with these sequences that increase and ease, slipping through among a subjecting synth, of which nasal strata are unique to Arc.
Torch crosses musical corridors with ill-assorted tones which flow on a purring pulsation and a synth to spectral breaths. Slowly a tempo forms among this synchronicity tones, piercing the atonality of the intro with a chaotic rhythm which flourishes on a keyboard to hesitating keys and felted, but steady, percussions and subtle sequences which wave with a half held strength, making of Torch a title where the rhythms merge by a surprising sequential paradox.
Veil is the master piece of Church. A heavy and hard title that needs more than two ears to savor it at its full measure and which commences with hesitating keyboard keys. Keys that skip awkwardly and which are soon joined by drummed percussions and heavy sequences full of resonances where a soft synth has difficulty to push through. Toward this full sonority raises a splendid dreamlike approach which a synth to delicate breaths sleeps on this hostile intro. And then, sequences pulse alone. A race which seemed harmless but which becomes subtly wild, drawing another rhythmic where a threatening sequencer adds itself and sticks to a superb mellotron which is wrapping us as, in the beautiful years of Moody Blues. An Epicurean title that explodes of an apocalyptic heaviness, but of which slow mellotron strata merge on isolated notes of piano and keyboard keys that recall the universe of Shreeve on Legion and Assassin. Simply magnificent; the divinity fighting the apocalypse in its entire musical and poetic splendor. One of 2010 good track!
Falling Through to Rapture is an extension of Rapture, from the album Fracture released in 2007. But a more awaken Rapture when a furtive tempo edges behind sumptuous mellotron strata and accelerates the pace among arpeggios of a nervous keyboards and a synth with long solos of which nasal loops shape a strange elfic harmony. Faithful to its musical universe, Arc molds here a tempo on sequences as ardent as keyboard keys, uniting a tempo that oscillates between tempered rates and ambient which distort Church ending.
At this very moment, Church is by far the album of the year in EM. Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve succeed in creating an intuitive album bound to a world where the pastoral Manichaeism prevails on the soft harmonies of a hedonist world. A wonderful album where heavy rhythms live with inspired harmonies and mellotronned atmospheres following from a synth more and more emergent in musicality, thanks to the dexterity of Ian Boddy, and magical sequences also heavy, powerful and unique to Mark Shreeve adroitness. There are no empty spaces or temporal padding in Church. Everything sticks in unity and held as a big Mass without religions, but which the spirituality stays a matter of music.
2010. Sylvain Lupari / Guts of Darkness
Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve have been making music together as the duo Arc since 1998 when their first studio CD Octane came about. This collaboration has since proven to be one of the most interesting match-ups in contemporary electronic music. Church (74'30") is their sixth release, their forth live album and presents a recording of their fantastic performance as part of The Gatherings Concert Series in Philadelphia from 14 November 2009.
The title Church is obviously in recognition of this concert's renowned venue (the sanctuary of St. Mary's Hamilton Village) and exceeds all expectations of the genre of live Spacemusic events and the resulting albums.
The music begins with a hushed windblown nightscape punctuated by the premonitory tolling of a bell in the distance. Drama builds further as the slow march of deep bass and drums pound beneath what may be the most macabre (and ear catching) synth anthem ever devised. As the eerie opening runs its chilling course, reverberating down to a cool calm, the energy of this piece runs off in a different direction as sequencer patterns cycle out into space with their ascending lead melodies trailing after. With loads of throbbing modular synth pulsings, vintage Mellotron strings, choir and flute, and go for broke keyboard lead lines, Church offers ample muscle for the adventurous, archaic modulations for the experimentalist and dreamy floating space for the cloudwalker. The five pieces found on Church are examples of the Boddy and Shreeve live dynamic at its peak - fusing technological eras, living in the flow of the moment and simply playing their hearts out for their crowd. With this concert Boddy & Shreeve achieve so much; they take the audience from a grim parade in a desolate graveyard to the ethereal reaches of the cosmos - all in the space of one evening of creative ingenuity inside a church.
Church is a magical album, encompassing a variety of atmospheres and energy levels and demonstrates the rare thing that may be felt when unique talents, receptive audience and reverential mood all converge in a unique musical sanctuary setting.
2010. Chuck van Zyl / STAR'S END