A.R.C. Soundtracks – DERELICTION​/​/​MIRROR

A.R.C. Soundtracks – DERELICTION​/​/​MIRROR

Although the geographically-scattered and now hiatus-prone Last Harbour appear to have been supplanted by A.R.C. Soundtracks as the primary vehicle for shared co-founders David Armes and Kevin Craig, it’s certainly not restricted the twosome’s creative range. Quite the contrary in fact, as this third even deeper-reaching album attests.  In our gloomy geopolitical time, where we’re perversely spoilt for choice when it comes to both potential dystopian futures and suitable post-cataclysm musical scores, the capital-letter heavy DERELICTION//MIRROR is certainly a strong contender in a crowded field.

Although part of a multimedia presentation with an accompanying film, the long-player works well enough on just an aural plane.  Recorded in and infused with the ambience of the part-derelict attic rooms at Salford’s Islington Mill artist hub, DERELICTION//MIRROR bridges itself between the moods of early-‘80s deindustrialisation and possible future post-apocalypse atmospherics.  Constructed with double-bass, synths, percussion, samplers, lap steel, piano, sound effect treatments and other miscellaneous components, the collection uses vocals (both from Craig and guest Elizabeth Willow) only sparingly.  The net effect is simultaneously a claustrophobic headphones-record and cavernous sonic space filler.

The enthralling opening titular-track grabs the attention quite demonstratively, with its seams of double-bass-plucking, shimmering cymbals, doom-laden piano and eerie noise layering-up gradually into a magisterial crescendo, to imagine Bark Psychosis being remixed by John Carpenter.  The ensuing “FIELD//TRESPASS” is more elusive but still commanding as it moves through foreboding industrial humming, clanking and pulsing as if it were the sound of a disused factory haunted by its own long since scrapped machinery.  The gears shift into slightly less abstract settings for “RUINS//RITUAL” and “INTERIOR//STRATA”. For the former, Craig’s detached spoken-word musings on decayed cityscapes wander amongst slowed-down Throbbing Gristle sound collages, like Nick Cave if he’d recruited Genesis P-Orridge instead of Blixa Bargeld for his early-Bad Seeds line-up.  For the latter, the lighter combination of Willow’s deadpan gentile tones with primitive whirrs and clicks provides a dead-ringer for something found in/around Piano Magic’s Popular Mechanics LP.

After this initial vocal detour greater darkness descends, through the incrementally amassing and unsettling loops, drones, warbles and percussion of “DUST//SURVEILLANCE”; the ghostly subterranean stalking and robotic heartbeat throbbing of “TERRAIN//VAGUE”; and the grinding and slow-thudding “FOUNDRY//CORE”.  Before taking things through a non-returnable black hole, Craig and Willow vocals reappear ghost-like together for “HYBRID//AGENCY”, which conceals a pretty piano figure amidst a wave of thick rippling discordance.  For the closing ten-minute “IMPERIAL//NOSTALGIA” the duo pack-in Pure Phase-era Spiritualized reverberations, watery drones, Craig’s discombobulated wordless incantations and a pounding piano vs. percussion coda to close proceedings with a more open-ended and less mechanised soundscape.

There’s no mistaking that DERELICTION//MIRROR is a sombre and heavy record yet its authors’ deftness and restraint prevent it from being an overbearingly funereal and portentous affair.  Moreover, there’s a real sense of craftsmanship and ambition as its core, that overrides any belief that this is merely a side-project that grew extra legs.  An intimidating but imaginative statement all told.

Gizeh Records