This is the track that says, hi, welcome to Research Arc. Some welcome. If an album’s opening track serves to assert a thesis for the overall recording, isol would seem to set up a panorama of alarm and disconcertment. Yeah, that covers a lot of what is here. At this point I’d like to add, like all the great old Queen albums, that no synthesizers were used in this recording. But, like, that’s just because I didn’t have any. isol contains sounds that are obviously guitar and sounds that are obviously a whale trying to sing Timetable by Genesis. In other words, analog tape trickery is present from the start. Crushing waves of dreadful racket are realized via Floyd Rose detuned distorted guitar (an Ibanez RG550) at half speed. I think there may be some backwards stuff in there too – just swelling chords, nothing to make you kill or worship Satan or anything.
02 Ducks Receive Injections
From the time it was born until yesterday, this piece (I hesitate to call anything here a “song”) was known as “Where’d You Get the Ducks?” It became obvious to me that this number would have to be renamed. I like it much better now. At any rate, Ducks is a trippy dubbed-out affair that seems like what might happen if Al Jourgensen and King Tubby collaborated on remixing some Bjork master tapes. Or something. It is sure to be a big hit in the dance clubs of NGC 4414.
03 Cruel Mastodons
They’re very cruel.
Like a lot of the content here, Mastodons is mostly about texture. As I’ve grown older (and older and older) I’ve developed a wider appreciation for the purely sonic. It’ll never take the place of Abbey Road, but music that is about a sound is very appealing to me. I mentioned that a Boss drum machine was used on these recordings. Mastodons and Ducks (don’t those two just go hand in hand?) both embody how – manipulated deconstructed mutations. And speaking of mutation, there is a very nasty strain of slide guitar going on here. I think it should probably be reported to the CDC.
04 The Clandestine Umbrella
Not all of the experimentation on Research Arc consists of me jacking around with tape speed or direction. Umbrella is an example of xenochrony. In opposition to the standard idea of a guitar solo being an interactive melodic extension reacting to an accompaniment, the solo on this piece was recorded first with no associated environment, just a key. Afterwards, chords were added with respect only to the key and the span of time dictated by the length of the solo. Whatever interplay happens is purely synthetic and coincidental. Umbrella also features occasional deranged and detached lap steel blurbs which arise to comment and (thankfully – I wouldn’t say I’ve exactly applied myself to the steel) disappear.
The title is a mistyping of “knell” that stuck. knfll is one of several Arc tracks to feature a sample from that cinematic masterpiece Night of the Lepus. The clip pops up at 1:22 just before a fairly vicious guitar solo.
Squalus is the first element of the Oceanic Oppression Trilogy. This piece takes its name from a doomed submarine – and maybe it shows. The vessel sank in 1939 with 33 on board, all of whom were rescued the next day. This is how I imagine the night stranded on the ocean floor.
07 Mollusk Eve
This is the cue for a creature outside the sunken Squalus, an impartial witness to the goings on. I’d really forgotten about so many of the bits herein. The electric guitar theme of Eve haunts me just a bit.
08 Thou Shalt Not Drown
And finally with the sample, “mommy, what’s a control group?” Drown attempts to conclude the underwater saga. There was understandable tension among the crew during those long submerged hours. Some, starting to go slightly mad, even started to theorize that their situation was part of some black government experiment (possibly under cover of some clandestine umbrella?). Ok, I made that up. More distorted half-speed drum loops form a foundation for scuzzy altered lap steel. I think there is some whacking on a wine bottle (presumably emptied) going on too.
Eitas is a wash of Impressionistic colors. The swelling, major 7 chords made me think of Erik Satie. In reverse.
10 The Frown Returns
So much for pleasantries. A hopelessly slowed down acoustic guitar provides the environment for clipped distorto-paranoiac sputtering. This is another track which moment by moment offers little in terms of melody but which dwells in the scope of the programmatic and cinematic.
Digitally delayed drum looping is the key. You can hear and feel some 5-string bass lumbering around somewhere downstairs. And that’s a “vocal” over there in the right channel. Egads. This is a track which certainly would have been omitted from any number of Trans Am or Can albums.
12 Searching for Patterns Where Really There are None
This song (oops, I used the “S” word) used to be called Musiker Obscure. Until yesterday. I think looking too deeply for something that is just not there is a mistake we all make. It can cause one to apply false meaning to objects and situations. By the same token, it is quite easy to miss the obvious. Somewhere in between exists an optimized consumption of life as we know it. Searching is almost an exact replica of Rocket Queen by Guns N’ Roses. Ok, it’s not, but it is similar in that it seems to be two distinct musical ideas attached together under the guise of one title. You can hear real crickets and night bugs recorded on purpose out the window of the house I used to live in in Blue Springs, MO. Then there’s more half-speed acoustic guitar mixed way out in front of what was maybe supposed to be a pseudo Clare Torry Great Gig in the Sky type of tortured wordless vocal, but in reality is closer to John Fahey’s “Ghosts.”
released February 15, 2009
Credits: Troy Van Horn
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