A.R.C. Soundtracks – Archive: Volume One

A.R.C. Soundtracks - Archive: Volume One

A.R.C. Soundtracks – Archive: Volume One

As Last Harbour have been the flagship band for Manchester’s Little Red Rabbit Records, it’s appropriate that fledgling sister imprint Little Crackd Rabbit should properly find its wings with a side-project featuring the group’s co-founders, David Armes and Kevin Craig.  Fitting the new label’s self-proclaimed dark, improvisational and experimental remit like a glove, this debut release from A.R.C. Soundtracks wholeheartedly justifies setting-up a parallel enterprise.  On top of freeing Armes and Craig from full-band responsibilities to explore more divergent avenues, Archive: Volume One also features the catalytic input of one Marc Rahr – occasional Last Harbour guest player, eccentric linchpin of all too short-lived swamp-punk outfit The Black Dahlias and all-round restless creative spirit – who sadly died in February 2012.

Although recorded and reworked in truly collaborative fashion over a period years, before and after Rahr’s passing, Archive: Volume One is a remarkably cohesive and flowing collection of subterranean filmic noire.  Musically broad yet consistent in tone, the album covers a lot of ground without straying too far from a mesmeric collective mood.

The opening “The Road To The Camp” acts as a sublime scene-setter, with quivering ghostly piano lines, yearning yet foreboding guitars, funereal percussion and disorientating vocal loops imagining Mogwai’s most cinematic pieces shot through the fog of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Your Funeral… My Trial.  After such a strong start the quality and sense of imagination barely dips elsewhere.  Hence, we’re guided through the lowest-slung pastures of early-Tortoise and Fixed: Context-era Labradford with alluring gravitas (“Covered Mirrors” and “In Circular Runs”); unsettled by spooked spoken-word recordings swirled in extemporised sound collages (most strikingly on the Mark E. Smith indebted “’Lee Strasberg’”); enveloped by elemental dronescapes (such as the Spacemen 3 infused “Dustcloud”); immersed in swelling shadowy-psychedelia (“The Hidden Home”); and enthralled by nocturnal storytelling (such as The For Carnation-like “The Path”).

Although all such cross-comparisons are made with the highest of compliments they don’t capture the essence of Archive: Volume One entirely, as its multi-layered enigmas decode themselves differently with every spin.  It genuinely could take as many as years to truly understand the mysteries buried within as it took to piece together the collection itself, which makes it all the more special. A low-key yet substantial triumph all told.

Little Crackd Rabbit