"Blaze" is the third CD release by ARC. The duo is comprised of Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve and the pair are joined on the album by guest musician Carl Brooker who plays drums on four of the disc's eight tracks.
- Blaze [5:00]
- Corrosion [9:26]
- Trial In Scarlet [5:15]
- Klang Wand [10:14]
- Silent White Light [4:38]
- Sparked [5:39]
- Mother [5:06]
- Pulse Train [8:52]
Both Boddy and Shreeve have been at the centre of the UK independent synth scene since the late seventies and have known each other since they both appeared at the very first UK Electronica in 1983.
Shreeve has been involved with his Redshift project for the last 10 years which has revolved around extensive use of an arsenal of vintage synths including a giant Moog IIIc modular system. With Redshift he has released six albums and performed several concerts as a four piece band.
Boddy first approached Shreeve in 1998 to set up the ARC project to run alongside Redshift in a more experimental and ambient vein. Their first disc "Octane" was premiered at the Alfa Centauri festival in the Netherlands.
"Radio Sputnik", the duos second CD was released as DiN 7 in 2000 and was a document of this concert.
"Blaze" has a running time of almost 55 minutes spread over eight tracks with a split of five rhythmic and three atmospheric pieces. Their signature sound of muscular Moog sequencer riffs overlaid with layers of ambient keyboard is still very much in evidence. However the addition of acoustic drums played by Carl Brooker on four of the five rhythmic tracks gives an added dimension and subtlety to the sound of ARC. Their music has a great sense of organic development and the drumming of Brooker further adds to the sense of dynamics.
Once again ARC have compiled an evocative mix of the early Teutonic synth pioneers with modern ambient electronica.
2003. Press information
Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve team up once again and if there ever was a synthetic-super-duo they are IT!
BLAZE is filled with Ianís crisp sequences and effectual bursts mixed to perfection with Marks analog wall of sound and superb melodic sensibilities. The end result is some of the best rhythmic/ melodic/ cosmic synthetics youíll hear anywhere Ė bar none.
ARC is the name under which the two well known British synth artists, Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve, collaborate. It's an interesting musical combination - Ian Boddy runs the DiN label which turns out contemporary electronica and has released several solo and collaborative albums; Mark Shreeve has also released solo albums and has been involved with Redshift (which he founded) in retro '70s style (think Tangerine Dream) synth music.
Blaze is ARC's third album, being not too dissimilar from Radio Sputnik in the overall feel.
Though analogue equipment is used on the album, they're [the artists, ed.] not treading retro ground by any means. Rather than being one of those albums that hangs together to form a coherent whole, the tracks on Blaze tend to vary and have their own unique character.
Half of the eight tracks, including the first and last, are predominantly rhythmic and percussive with sequencing, drums, and hi-hat helping the synth sounds deliver a pulsating structure. After listening to a lot of drifting ambient lately, it made a nice change to put this CD in the player and be faced with the searing opener "Blaze" on which ARC let rip - especially with the drums and cymbals.
Interspersed between the rhythmic tracks are soundscapes with a darkness and edginess to them.
The track "Trial in Scarlet" is a good example. It made me imagine walking through the grounds of an old haunted house in the dead of night. Some of the sounds are distinctly eerie and I could imagine this piece being used in the soundtrack to a scary film.
As with many other collaborations between artists who do a lot of solo work, the result in Blaze is more than a sum of the parts. Here the talents of Ian and Mark come out even better than on Radio Sputnik, in my opinion.
Blaze should appeal to those who want something exciting to listen to but also enjoy spooky soundscapes and ventures into hard to describe synth creations.
Mark Shreeve and Ian Boddy have a great deal in common. They both independently rose to icon status - catalyzing the 1980's UK synth scene - through the release of several remarkable studio albums and numerous legendary live performances; Shreeve notorious for his muscular, testosterone fueled synth music and Boddy for his prog-influenced symphonic synthscapes.
This duo also shares a certain duality to their character as both are "professional" musicians by occupation and Electronic Musicians by avocation - both struggling with demands and deadlines placed on them through scoring films, authoring library discs or other commercial work, against the drive to create their own, more personally expressive music which resides some distance from the mainstream. Interestingly, Shreeve and Boddy also came to re-invent themselves artistically at about the same time too. Shreeve with the formation of his group Redshift and its elevation of 70's sequencer spacemusic and Boddy through his embrace of and foray into modern chillout ambient music and the bold establishment of his DiN label - Purveyors of Fine Contemporary Electronica. Together, Mark Shreeve and Ian Boddy are the duo of Arc. Blaze (54'23") is their third release and continues a tradition of experimentation through collaboration.
Those anticipating an even greater refinement of the pulsing analogue tones and classic cosmic music forms of the previous albums will find only traces of Arc's past efforts on Blaze. This album seems to have two speeds, maximum acceleration and crawling trepidation. The missing middle replaced with spine-chilling negative space interludes bridging the areas between manic warps of speaker straining energy.
The title track (5'03") opens Blaze with a steady sequencer bass foundation amidst full-on rock drumming. The madness reaches its peak as bright synth choirs saturate the mayhem with shifting shades of sinister harmonies. Conventional drumming is utilized throughout Blaze.
From basic time-keeping duties on "Klangwand" (10'14") and "Sparked" (5'39") to the unrestrained rolls and flourishes on "Pulse Train" (8'52"), the sound traces its lineage back to some of Europe's more electronically oriented rock-in-opposition groups of the '70s.
The track "Corrosion" (9'26") settles uneasily between the range of energies exhibited on this album. The engaging pattern of uniform bass notes beneath unsettling melodies and eerie effects opens, disappears, re-enters and eventually is tweaked into something unrecognizable - depositing the listener in a much different space than at the outset.
"Trial In Scarlet" (5'15"), "Silent White Light" (4'38") and "Mother" (5'06") are an eligaic respite from the demanding rhythms and explore the spooky moody darker regions of spacemusic.
On Blaze two monuments to our scene offer fresh insight into the area between space and rock music. Fortunately for the intelligent/adventurous listener, their pursuits are beyond that of a commercial audience. Shreeve and Boddy persistently and freely exhibit their musical talent and technological craft on Blaze, leading us on a rewarding listening experience.
2003. Chuck van Zyl / STAR'S END
A charming electric piano melody gently fades into the distance then POW we enter a rapid live drum driven number which is incredibly catchy with a hint of the Shadows! That is until a sequence emerges in the second minute combining with the wonderful drumming to take us on one hell of a powerful roller coaster ride. It is like nothing I have heard from either Ian or Mark before. It might sound strange on paper but believe me it's an incredibly exciting blast.
'Corrosion' is more conventional Arc / Redshift type fair. Bleeps slowly form into a sequence which builds and builds. More sequences are added, one wonderfully bass heavy and the other 'splashing'. We then get a fantastic deep analogue lead line full of menace, then more supporting lines. There is nothing meandering here, this is well composed stuff which hits the spot wonderfully, shaking the foundations all the way, twisting this way then that like some vast awesome machine being controlled by a power mad operator. Things do calm down nearer the end becoming quite subtle but again it's masterful stuff.
Very deep drones, hardly more than a rumble, get 'Trial in Scarlet' underway.
The sound of the wind and demonic effects then mix with mournful lead lines and flutey tron sounds. I am writing this six days before Halloween and it would fit the mood for that day perfectly. Superb atmospheric, malevolent stuff.
'Klangwand' begins with a slow rhythm from which emerges yet another wonderful moog modular sequence which storms forwards. Live drums make an appearance again and Klaus Schulze's 'Moondawn' album very much came to mind. More sequences are added and things become increasingly complex. It really doesn't get any better than this- sequencer paradise in fact!
The good old moog is initially deployed once again on 'Silent White Light'. Underneath the initial pulse some lovely shimmering pads shine through to be replaced by soft almost orchestral ones. After a couple of minutes the various layers of drones are left to weave their own exquisite magic but it isn't long before we get more sequencer based structure which takes us to the end.
A jaunty loop is deployed on 'Sparked' to which is added yet another earth shaking sequence and once again more perfectly placed sympathetic drums. It gets into a real body moving groove enhanced by some excellent lead lines ideal for air keyboard. It got well under the skin, my head and hands moving like a crazy thing making it almost impossible to type. The track oozes more and more 'attitude' as it progresses.
'Mother' creates a mean atmosphere right from the offset with some distorted deep bass strings sounding almost like aircraft diving towards the earth. Even more awesome bass is added accompanied by an organ from hell. We stay in the nightmare right until the end.
'Pulse Train' is a great name for yet another sequence dominated number which initially chugs along pleasantly but then lets rip with real cool rhythms and superb bass lines. I defy anyone to keep their head and hands still whilst listening to this one. It is another highlight on an album where every track is a highlight. On some of the tracks it gets very close to Redshift but on those where other styles are visited it is always done with fantastic success and should be enjoyed by anyone into pulsating powerful electronic music.
This is the best Arc album of the three currently available, indeed one of the most essential CDs of the decade so far. )
A brilliant cd. The mix of ambient & rhythmic styles really works. Real drums also add to the sound. If your curious then try it. One of my cd's of 2003.
2004. Rob / UK