ARC: Fleet (2017)
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
“What we have here is a splendid album, from start to end, which will blow your ears away with a loud and fast sequencer-based style England School”
At each new album of Arc, we ask ourselves the question to know if the English duet would surpass its previous album. I devoured every album of Arc and more specially Umbra and its live reconstitution in the striking Arclight. Since Church, Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve polish their style with new gear and they push an EM which wins in intensity as the seconds flee meters. The last studio and live album let emerge strong the finales, constituted of the gloomy and explosive Panthera and Cherry Bomb, which are for me the quintessence of the England School style. So, the bar was very high for FLEET, an album of original material that Arc performed at the famous E-Scape Festival earlier this year. FLEET proposes one 75 minutes of an EM which reaches new summits for Arc with a superb symbiosis between the ambiences, the rhythms and the melodies which are constantly peppered by perfect sound and percussive effects. Always whipped by good structures of rhythms (as we expected, the sequences are dominant and excellent), FLEET will know a finale as convincing as the one in Umbra.
If we remember correctly the E-Scape 2017 album, Arc has interpreted a Mark Shreeve title, System Six, in this compilation album which gathers the artists present at this festival. I bring this fact, because the music of FLEET really sounds strangely like the universe of the one to whom we owe the Legion album. Maybe it's because he has mixed and masterised it. But whatever, it's on this mold that the title-track approaches our ears. Chthonian breaths embalm the moods of a sinister theatrical approach which is amplified by knockings of percussions coming from the outer world. A line of bass polished the heavy relief of Fleet which is proud of its introduction with thick layers of a Gothic organ from a dark Mellotron and a chthonian choir which galvanizes its presence with a delicious cinematographic ode. The rhythm skipping weakly in these splendid luciferian arrangements, Fleet orientates again its dark axis with an attractive harmonious approach a little after the 4 minutes point. The arpeggios which sparkle here have this scent of John Carpenter and/or Legion in a heavy pattern where whistle shadows and specters with an attractive fusion between the singing of a synth and its orchestrations which reign over this structure as much lively than a gooseflesh which is afraid of the wind. Now each title here is interrupted by applauses. They are witness of an audience of connoisseurs of the Arc style from where Soar escapes with its lively structure. To say the least for its first 4 minutes. The rhythm is fluid and tied up on a line of bass sequences in mode; run after my keys! Another line of sequences gets grafted at this race, adding a more harmonious section to the rhythm and in the many sound effects of Soar which will dive into a phase of ambiences and of Mephistophelian effects where this harmonious line of sequences will weaken its last ounces of charm in one of the rare quiet moments of FLEET. The first moments of Surge are also of ambient nature with foggy breezes and layers of sibylline voices which float in an embryo of rhythm split up by yet uncertain rush. Except for a bass line which is always lively and stuck in a universe of perdition where also sparkle keyboard keys which are soaked of the sweet perfumes of Ian Boddy. Since its introduction, we smell that Surge is going to explode right in our face. And that starts with a livelier structure at the edge of the 4 minutes with a meshing between motionless sequences and percussions in mode rock which push the music towards a strong structure of electronic rock covered by layers and squeaking of synths. A pure moment of euphoric trance is going on and is provided by the wonderful quality of the duel of synths and of their vampiric effects. A little as in Soar, Surge reveals its structure of rhythm with sequences beating without blanket which charm so much with these rolling of balls very in mode Chris Franke. The heavy layers which cover the hesitating and at the end more coherent movement of Escape bring to us not too distant memories with the approach of Panthera. In a structure which also unifies heaviness and suppleness, the music remains more harmonious and less stormy in this title fed by superb percussive effects as harrowing as these layers of Mellotron which wrap a structure supported in an approach always very theatrical. The first 4 minutes of Crux are also fed by delicious luciferian vibes. The rhythm which hatches is lively with sustained bass pulsations and movements of sequences which activate their crisscrossed loops like flights of bats in a haunted cave. Runner is a little bomb with its rhythm knotted around strange cawing of the sequencer and the line of bass pulsations in mode techno/dance. The synths are very harmonious and our starving ears have difficulty in seizing this whole fauna of percussive effects which surrounds a charmingly bumpy structure and of which the charms stay in these synths in mode Jarre and his Pop years. But a Pop here which loses this nuance of fragility with a rhythmic envelope as heavy as the vibes which surround the 7 tracks of this very strong opus from Arc. The 2nd part is clearly more explosive and in mode Shreeve of the Assassin times. With its approach skillfully weaved in a sound tension, Howl wants to make counterweight to the very overexcited Cherry Bomb and to the powerful Veil (Church). And that works! Here, as on many titles in FLEET, the tension in the introduction cogitates in the first 4 minutes. And then … Bang! Howl explodes between our ears with a heaviness and a fluidity up to here unequalled in the repertoire of Arc. The synths spit solos as much furious as those in Cherry Bomb and this in a heaviness assumed by layers of wild and boosted riffs. A slight moment of calm ambiences and bang! Howl explodes again and this time the solos whistle such as those of a heavy metal guitar in a structure just as much greedy for heavy electronic metal. An explosive finale for an album which doesn't disappoint at all and which is delicious from start to end. Misters Boddy and Shreeve, the bar will still be very high to surpass this FLEET. But I feel that you are capable! This is what I call an unescapable and perfect loud and fast sequencer-based style album, Enjoy my friends!
Sylvain Lupari (October 14th, 2017) *****
Available at DiN Bandcamp