1. Arcadia [14:24]
  2. Proxima Obscuro [13:32]
  3. Umbra [18:07]
  4. Auto Stratus [11:44]
  5. Panthera [10:01]
  6. Cherry Bomb [10:34]
ARC are Ian Boddy (also DiN label boss) 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 analogue equipment not the least of which is Shreeve's massive Moog IIIC modular system.

Umbra (DiN45) is a recording from their headline performance at the E-Live festival in Oirschot, the Netherlands on 19th October 2013. The duo played for 90 minutes and the set was recorded to multi-track to allow Shreeve to edit and mix the album to fit onto a single CD. The audience reaction to the music has been included to provide a genuine taste of the concert experience.

The powerful sequencing on the six tracks were recorded in the studio beforehand and these were triggered by Boddy using Ableton Live during the concert. This allowed the duo to concentrate on interweaving complex layers of keyboards and textures throughout their performance. The set constantly evolves in an organic fashion from the traditional sequencing grooves of the opening track Arcadia through to the powerhouse encore track Cherry Bomb. The second piece, Proximo Obscuro, hearkens back to the classic, simple grooves of early Berlin style sequencing. Umbra & Panthera have a darker, more gothic feel and bookend the more delicate sequencing of Auto Stratus.

This is only the fifth concert ARC have performed and as such Umbra provides a wonderful opportunity to hear what these two experienced musicians sound like in a live performance. Arc is became Redshift, and vice versa! And no matter the hat that wears Mark Shreeve and Ian Boddy, their musical signatures remain completely unique. In fact they are part of a very small group who, while paying tribute to the fibers of their reminiscences, managed to build a sound, to build a concept which transcends the roots of their influences. From Octane, as from Redshift 1, we knew that both icons of the England School EM scene were going to carve their imprints in this small collective of EM fans. More than 4 years after very solid Church, Arc returns with a 7th opus entitled “Umbra”. A powerful album of Berlin School style. And as in all good Berlin School filled by mysticism and of Gothicism, and this one is awesome trust me, the rhythm arises from a troop of baroque noises and gallops to lose breath under the bites of sonic beasts before trying a refuge in a short moment of ambiospherical illusion and to rush again beneath anoth er skin and a new sonic big top always so threatening, always so nerve-racking. An album where the shadows of sequences and of Gothic melodies haunt structures of complex rhythms which never stop seducing the ear.

A burst of sounds, of spectral lamentations and of humming reverberations with jerky waves annihilate the rain of applauses which open this 5th show of Arc given at the Holland's E-Live Festival on October 19th of this year. A line of sequences offers its rebelions which kick while running in a rhythmic corridor fed by ectoplasmic noises. Arc thus spreads its arsenal of sequences and spectral tones on a line of rhythm which subtly is attacked by the strikes of electronic percussions of which the brief rollings are taken away by the synth night-waves' tunes. The rhythm of "Arcadia" answers to this fusion of sequences and percussions, as it also answers to the velocity of the synth pads as much melodic as very lively, running at a brisk pace in ambiences as black than a veil of terror. We are in the somber territories of Arc where everything turns around mysticism and baroque, while that "Arcadia" slows down a little its race with more isolated ions which skip like steps lost in fogs with some strange rotations of glaucous voices and of fluty cooings which little by little restructure a rhythm which will fly away again with pads of more ethereal voices and these clouds with orchestrations of mist which fly faster than time. Always very active on social networks, Ian Boddy made an opinion pool among his followers in order to know if we wanted applauses or not between each track. The applauses had the quotation. I don't remember what I answered (fucking painkillers), but I have to admit that this hurrahs disturbs a wonderful musical mosaic which has no weakness. After some dense black winds stuffed with heavy layers of Mephistophelian organ and organic noises, "Proxima Obscuro" extricates itself from the darkness with a thick cloud of shaky waves. The rhythm which bears it is as heavy than lively and follows a black tunnel where prowls a troop of somatic noises. Set apart of the leaden rhythm, there are solos. Synth solos as well very musical than spectral. T hey follow the curves of a rhythm structure which will modulate its phases according to some evolving moods which plunge us in the heart of the Tangerine Dream's vintage years. Actually, "Proxima Obscuro" will be the only track of “Umbra” to carry this seal. The rest is Redshift in the skin of Arc or vice versa!

Like the title-track and its tribune to the gangrenous voice filled of groans and treacherous breaths. The rhythm is there! Hid in the shade it pounds, as it cogitates, with a disturbing but fascinating melodious aura. Crossing the bridges of dark serenities and the hollow moods of "Umbra", it trembles as it resounds. It makes skip its agile steps and make scold its shadows into clouds of mists in tints of ether and into evanescent melodies before invading us with some heavy ghostly synth pads while freeing a fascinating and mesmerizing spectral melody. The hairs of our arms look for our tears! The whole of “Umbra” soaks our ears with a puzzling crescendo tinted of black where Mark Shreeve and Ian Boddy weave rhythms of which the crevices are digging into the ambiospherical structures sometimes as much violent as the races of sequences. "Autostratus" is the quietest track and nevertheless the darkest of “Umbra”. Chthonian choruses transpose a rhythm pushed by synth waves and by quiet sequences which crawl as centipedes with the articulations of glass. The finale is weaved of black silk with sequences embroidering a rhythm finely fluty which skips in some heavy pads of mists pierced of sibylline sunbeams. Orgiastic layers of organ are falling from heavens to reveal the bloodthirsty rhythm of "Panthera". While we thought that we reached the paroxysm, this heavy and lively track redefines the limits of rhythms modulated by the big Moog. We follow here downright the movements of a feline which runs in a sonic jungle filled by heavy vampiric layers and by spectral roarings that make the most solid souls staggering. Brilliant and effective! We are near the ecstasy when "Cherry Bomb" makes ring its glass carousel of which the fragile melody brings us to the edges of the musing. There are some so charming flutes, as there are heavy breaths of sequences as well as strange melancholic tears which drown themselves in celestial choruses. This is paradise near hell bec ause when that starts, that kicks things down! What comes to mind is this superb Bombers in the Desert, which we found on Ether from Redshift, with a rhythm on the verge of violence where Ian Boddy's electronic guitar traces Rob Jenkins' savageries on a beat worthily of the best spy movie (remember MI 1). Hallucinating! We still want more of it, but it is already finished. The only weakness of “Umbra”.

2014. Sylvain Lupari / gutsofdarkness.com & synthsequences.blogspot.ca