Three years after the release of his sophomore album The Soft Wave, ARP returns with More, which will be released on 16th September 2013 on Smalltown Supersound. During the last three years, much has changed for Alexis Georgopoulis a.k.a. ARP. Having toured The Soft Wave, he decided to take a break from touring. Instead, he wanted to concentrate on a much wider range of projects. For Alexis, this opened up a whole new world of opportunities.
Ever since his days as a member of Tussle, the first group Alexis Georgopoulis joined, he’s always been a leading light in the American art scene. He’s an innovator, whose determined to push boundaries and challenge norms. That’s been the story of Alexis’ career and a reason why he’s been commissioned for cutting-edge projects.
Among these projects are the time he spent as curator of New York’s legendary avant-garde art centre, The Kitchen. He’s written scores for a dance-company, worked on a sound installation and collaborated with visual artists. That’s not forgetting when Alexis was asked to provide the soundtrack to Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel runway show. The remarkable thing is, Alexis has achieved much of this in the past ten years, including releasing some genre-melting music.
It was back in 2003, that Tussle, who Alexis Georgopoulis was a member of, released their debut E.P. Eye Contact. Released on Troubleman Unlimited, the same label released their debut album Kling Klang. Named after Kraftwerk’s studios, this was a fusion of musical genres and influences. Everything from disco, electronica, funk and dub met head-on on Kling Klang. Two years later, in 2006, Tussle were back with their sophomore album Telescopic Mind, which proved to be Alexis’ final album with Tussle. The next album he released would be as ARP.
ARP’s debut album was 2007s In Light, which was released on Smalltown Supersound, an independent record label based in Oslo, Norway. After a gap of three years, ARP released the critically acclaimed and commercially successful The Soft Wave. Just like In Light, The Soft Wave was released on Smalltown Supersound. Having just finished an arduous tour promoting The Soft Wave, ARP decided to take a rest from touring and spend time on other projects. This included a collaboration with Anthony Moore.
Before Alexis met Anthony Moore, previous ARP albums saw analog synths feature heavily. After meeting Anthony, Alexis was encouraged to do something he’d never done before…write songs. The pair collaborated on the self-titled ARP and Anthony Moore. Released later in 2010, ARP and Anthony Moore took Alexis well out of his comfort zone. Whether it was purely coincidental, a new world of opportunities opened up for Alexis Georgopoulis.
Among these new opportunities were projects involving modern art and dance. This included a commission by architect and designers ROLO, to create a sound installation for the Walker Art Center. Another time, Alexis was asked to create an innovative 7” flexi-disc for White Zinfandel magazine. Alexis then contributed a track to the Sol Hewitt tribute album. There was a collaboration with visual artist Tauba Auerbach. Then one of the most prestigious commissions was writing a score he wrote for Johan Bokaer of the legendary Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He squeezed all this into just three years. That’s not forgetting recording ARP’s third album More, which I’ll tell you about.
More is very different to ARP’s two previous albums. Inspired by his collaboration with Jason Walker, Alexis has written twelve new songs. He’s not deserted his trusty synths. Far from it. Instead he relies upon a much wider selection of instruments. Then there’s his secret weapon, that hitherto unheard voice. That’s the finishing touches to songs that have been influenced by numerous genres and influences. Everything from ambient, art-rock, avant-garde, baroque, blues, gospel, Krautrock, pop, psychedelia, punk and rock. From minimalist to grandiose, atmospheric epics, surging with drama, More is an intriguing and eclectic collection of multilayered soundscapes, which I’ll tell you about.
High-Heeled Clouds opens More. Stabs of keyboard and meander bass accompany a melancholy, slightly dreamy vocal. Straight away, you’re reminded of The Soft Boys and The Beach Boys. Like a lost Brian Wilson track it piques your interest. Something special, you realize is unfolding. Crystalline guitar, Wurlitzer organ and harmonies provide the backdrop to a vocal that’s languid and wistful, when pop and psychedelia combine.
Judy Nylon has art-rock written all over. Driven along by the rhythm section and guitars, it’s a track inspired by Roxy Music. Even Alexis’ vocal has a Ferry-esque influence. Layers of fuzzy guitars and keyboards replace the vocal adding to the drama, while Alexis’ vocal is a mixture of emotion and frustration. Accompanied by the driving guitars, disgustedly he almost spits out “tell me something right.”
Given the title A Tiger In The Hall At Versailles, I was expecting an abstract, experimental piece of music. For a minute, that was the case. Then it’s all change. Keyboards, harpsichord and wandering bass provide an arrangement that has a baroque influence. Ethereal harmonies prove the perfect accompaniment. Ah-ing his way through the song, horns add a Sgt. Peppers influence on a track that’s genre-sprawling, pensive and hauntingly beautiful.
E2 Octopus is one of three short soundscapes. Lasting just forty-four attention grabbing seconds, you listen carefully and a variety of sounds escape. Birds cheep, a radio frequency changes and horses gallop, before heading to a near discordant, dramatic crescendo.
Accompanied by just his trusty piano, Alexis delivers a heartfelt vocal on Light and Sound. It features some of his best and most beautiful lyrics. The spartan arrangement allows his vocal to breath. QUite rightly, it takes centre-stage. Keyboards add an atmospheric and melancholic backdrop. As for the harmonies, they’re the perfect accompaniment. Used very briefly, they reinforce and reflect the tenderness and beauty of Alexis’ impassioned vocal. It’s reminiscent of Al Stewart and Robyn Hitchcock in style. Adding the finishing touch is the harpsichord, which adds a baroque influence, to this understated and beautiful song.
17th Daydream is two-minute track that has an experimental sound and feel. It’s a bit like when you just let your mind go blank and let your surroundings enter your consciousness. Suddenly your aware of birds, insects, trains and cars around you. That’s the case here, until washes of synths create a sinister sci-fi sound.
A lone piano is responsible for creating the dramatic introduction to Gravity (For Charlemagne Palestine). Reminiscent of Penguin Cafe Orchestra it’s a fusion of classical, ambient, experimental and rock. Gradually, instruments drop in. Strings sweep back and forth. Guitars join, wah-wah-ing their way across the arrangement. They too add to the drama that’s continually building. Almost consumed, it’s as if the track is an outlet for frustration and anger. By channelling, all this frustration and aggression into music, it provides a Freudian outlet that results in a piece of music that’s dramatic, potent and powerful.
Invisible Signals is just thirty-seconds of music. It’s an atmospheric fusion of musical and spoken word samples. Everything happens so quickly. It’s frustrating. Just as you’re trying to work out where the sample is taken from, it’s gone to be replaced by something just as fascinating.
Not for the first time, More (Blues) features a Pink Floyd influence. Think Roger Waters circa The Final Cut, and this is what this track reminds me of. It’s the vocal that leads to the conclusion, not the arrangement. The arrangement has a bluesy, jazz-tinged backdrop. Bluesy horns, organ and guitar accompany a vocal that’s rueful and tinged with regret. Worldweary, it’s a vocal that sounds as if it’s lived several lives. Meandering along, bursts of horns and later, chiming guitars escape from the arrangement as Alexis delivers one of his best and most effective vocals on a track that references Pink Floyd, Robyn Hitchcock, jazz, rock and rock ‘n’ roll.
Chrystalline guitars swathed in filters meander across the arrangement to V2 Slight Return. It’s almost as if the guitars are ashamed of their beauty, hiding it behind filters.
Daphne and Chloe sees Alexis join forces with his piano again. His vocal is tender and thoughtful. That’s until searing guitars and booming drums replace his vocal. Still he plays the piano, which provides a contrast to the drama of the drums. Later, he scats his jazzy vocal melancholy, as if unaware of the drama that’s surrounding him. Instead he concentrates on creating something that’s both ethereally beautiful and dramatic at the same time.
Closing More is Persuasion. Drawing inspiration from punk, post punk and art-rock the track bursts into live. Driven along by searing guitar licks that evoke the spirit of ’76, synths add an art rock influence. Joining forces, they prove to be a potent combination. Midway through the track the darkness descends, before chiming guitars join a powerhouse of a rhythm section. Evoking memories of The Who in their heyday, you you can imagine the band windmilling their way across the studio. before the track and More reaches it’s dramatic ending. Well, that’s not how More ends. Instead, with a minute left the track stops all of a sudden. More then meanders to a dubby close with a myriad of squeaks and beeps.
Twelve-tracks and forty-six minutes long, ARP’s third album More, which will be released on 16th September 2013 on Smalltown Supersound, is Alexis Georgopoulis best album so far. A genre-sprawling album, More draws inspiration from everything from ambient, art-rock, avant-garde, baroque, blues, classical, dub, gospel, jazz, Krautrock, pop, post-punk, psychedelia, punk, rock and rock ‘n’ roll. Then there’s influences that include Al Stewart, the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Pink Floyd, Robyn Hitchcock, Roxy Music and The Beatles. Influenced by a myriad of genres and influences, ARP’s music evokes a variety of emotions.
Veering between atmospheric and evocative to beautiful and ethereal, the twelve soundscapes on ARP’s More can also be describes as melancholy and wistful. Ranging from understated right through to dramatic, the music on More is intriguing, eclectic and mesmeric. It’s also music that’s bewitching and beautiful. The reason for that is Alexis’ different approach to making music.
Having forsaken his trusty analog synths, Alexis has found both his voice, plus a much more eclectic selection of instruments. Alexis’ voice bristles with emotion, but can just as easily have an ethereal quality. Other times, it has a wonderful worldweary, lived-in sound. Reminiscent of Bryan Ferry, Roger Waters and Robyn Hitchcock, Alexis’ newly found voice is his hidden weapon. Then there a bass, guitars, harmonies, harpsichord, horns and keyboards, plus a myriad of samples. All this and More, much, much, More went into the making of ARP’s third album, More, which is one of the finest albums I’ve heard this summer. Standout Tracks:High-Heeled Cloud, A Tiger In The Hall At Versailles, Light and Sound and More (Blues).