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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

ARC: Umbra (2014)

The only weakness of Umbra is its end. How can such a masterpiece of modern EM has to get an ending?

1 Arcadia 14:24 2 Proxima Obscuro 13:32 3 Umbra 8:07 4 Autostratus 11:44 5 Panthera 10:01 6 Cherry Bomb 10:34 DiN | 045

(CD/DDL 78:24) (V.F.) (Dark and haunting Berlin School)

Arc has turned into 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 of artists that, while paying homage to the fibers of their reminiscences, have managed to construct a sound of their own. To construct a concept which transcends the fibers of their influences. From Octane, like from Redshift 1, we knew that the two icons of the England School would put their footprints in this small group of EM aficionados. More than 4 years after the very solid Church, Arc comes back with a 7th album entitled UMBRA. A powerful Berlin School album with a zest of England School that gives it some mind-blowing phases. And like in any good Berlin School music imbued with mysticism and Gothism, and this one is very good at this level trust me, the rhythm is hatching from a horde of baroque noises and gallops to lose breath under the bites of sonic beasts to seek refuge in a brief moment of ambiospherical illusion in order to rush again into another skin and under a new sonic marquee always as threatening, as scary. An album where the shadows of the Gothic sequences and melodies haunt structures of complex rhythms which never cease to seduce the sense of hearing.

An effusion of sounds, spectral lamentations and roaring reverberations with jerky waves annihilate the rain of applause that opens this 5th show that Arc gave at the E-Live Festival in Holland last October 19. A line of sequences offers its rebellious keys which flow while running in a rhythmic corridor fed by ectoplasmic noises. Arc thus deploys its arsenal of sequences and spectral tones on a rhythm line which is subtly attacked by electronic percussions' strikes whose brief drum-rolls are carried away in the airs of night waves' synth. The rhythm of Arcadia responds to this fusion of sequences and percussions, as it also responds to the velocity of the synth pads, as melodic as they are very catchy, spinning at high speed in atmospheres as much black as a veil of terror. We are in the dark territories of Arc where everything revolves around mysticism and baroque, while Arcadia slows down its race a bit with more isolated keys leaping like lost steps in layers of strange glaucous voices and of flute cooings which little by little restructure a rhythm which will again fly away with more ethereal layers of voice and these clouds with orchestrations of mist which fly faster than time. Always very active on social networks, Ian Boddy carried out a house survey to find out if the fans wanted applause or not between each title. Applause was popular. I don't remember my answer (damn painkillers), but I must admit that these hurray are disturbing a superb musical mosaic which has no flaws. After dense black winds riddled with heavy layers of mephistophelic organ and by organic noises, Proxima Obscuro climbs out of the darkness with a cloud of flickering waves. After dense black winds riddled with heavy layers of mephistophelic organ and organic noises, Proxima Obscuro climbs out of the darkness with a cloud of flickering waves. The rhythm that carries it is as heavy as lively and follows a black tunnel where a horde of somatic noises roams. Apart from a horde of lead, there are solos. Synth solos as musical as spectral. They follow the curves of a rhythmic structure which will modulate its phases according to atmospheres that plunge us into the heart of Tangerine Dream's vintage years. In fact, Proxima Obscurowill be the only UMBRA title to bear this seal. The rest is Redshift in the skin of Arc or vice versa!

Like the title-track and its orator with a voice full of groans and of perfidious breaths. The rhythm is there! hide in the shade it pulsates, as it cogitates, with a disturbing but fascinating melodious aura. Crossing the bridges of obscure serenity and the cavernous atmospheres of Umbra, it trembles, as it resonates, jumping with his agile steps and making its shadows roar in clouds of ether-hued mists and evanescent melodies before invading us with heavy ghostly layers and unleashing a fascinating and haunting spectral melody. The hairs of our arms seek our tears! UMBRA soaks our ears with a confusing crescendo tinged of black where Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve weave rhythms whose crevices are taking the shape of atmospherical structures sometimes as violent as the races of the sequences. Autostratus is the quietest and yet darkest track on the album. Chtonian choirs transpose a rhythm moved by synth waves and quiet sequences which crawl like centipedes with articulations of glasses. The finale is woven in black silk with sequences of finely fluted rhythm which hops in heavy layers of mist pierced by sibylline rays. Layers of organs fall from the clouds to reveal the bloody rhythm of Panthera. While we thought the paroxysm reached, this heavy and lively title redefines the limits of the rhythms modulated by the big Moog. We follow squarely the movements of a feline running in a sonic jungle with heavy vampiric layers and spectral howls to make the most solid souls stagger. Bright and efficient! We are at the gates of ecstasy when Cherry Bomb clinks its glass carousel, the fragile melody of which brings us to the brink of reverie. There are such enchanting flutes, as there are heavy breaths of the sequences as well as strange melancholy tears which drown in celestial choirs. It's paradise at the gates of hell because when it starts, the floor is shaken! What comes to mind is this superb Bombers in the Desert, that we found on Redshift's Ether,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 (kind of MI 1). Hallucinating! We still want more of it, but it is already finished. The only weakness of UMBRA… it has to end!

Sylvain Lupari (June 11th, 2014) *****

Available at DiN Bandcamp

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