Arvo Party by Arvo PartyRelease date: July 7, 2017
Arvo Party is the moniker of Belfast-born Herb MaGee who has fervently contributed to the Irish music scene as a live technician, producer and performer, for well over a decade. Like so many before him, he has traded in his trusty instrument and got himself a laptop and a host of VST’s so he can make music whilst indulging a quieter, less hectic life than the insanity and sheer monotony of life on the road. But before chalking this up as another bedroom project of a tired alt-rocker, it’s important to look for the human element in this expertly produced electronic tapestry.
Let’s get some context here…
The Irish music scene is something more than a state-funded mascot for cultural capital. It’s a breeding ground for unbridled talent. Ingrained in the very heart of Irish men and women, it seems, is an innate appreciation for the unique connection between music, the soul and a fucking good time. As a result, many of its artists thrive on the support of enthusiastic gig goers and music lovers alike; more so than many of their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.
That is not to say that success is handed over on a silver platter however. Herb Magee is no stranger to hard work: As bassist for the formidable alternative rock outfit LaFaro, Magee spent his days rattling the rafters of venues as diverse as Belfast’s Ulster Hall and SXSW festival in Texas, not to mention dredging the toilet circuit of the UK, playing to a handful of semi-interested punters at a time. The band toured constantly, finding critical acclaim through releases on Small Town America Records and through regular air play on Zane Lowe’s Radio One Evening Show for instance. Following his departure from LaFaro in 2011, Magee went on to work as a bass tech for fellow alt-rockers Therapy?. Since then, he begun to construct a new vehicle with which he can traverse the creative side of his musical interests. Enter Arvo Party.
From its serene beginnings, AP’s eponymous debut bathes the listener in swathes of texture, both light and dark. It’s a little hard to place at first. There’s an overarching serenity to it that aligns with the delicate trappings of the neo-classical movement but it’s tinged with dark underpinnings that hint at something more industrial. A residual of Magee’s alt-rock influences perhaps? Vague comparisons could be drawn with the likes of Clark or Nathan Fake’s more recent material but AP has its own distinctive character. The atmospheric and highly memorable ‘LongitudeLatitude’ crescendos gradually with a subtly retro aesthetic that conjures images of replicants in a neon-glazed, smog-filled future, while ghostly overdriven guitars colour a palette of live percussion and crispy 80’s pads. Meanwhile, wobbly dreamscapes peer out through soft-focus, giving way to the thud-snap beats of tracks like ‘Null Set’, making this listen more like a walk through of the electronic landscape, than a snap shot of one or two of its subgenres. The culmination of this myriad of influences from all corners of the electronica spectrum is something wonderfully heart-felt and ultimately unique.
The album closes with the harrowing afterglow of ‘Wasted days and Sleepless Nights’ which features some unsettling heavy breathing nestled amidst dark, raspy textures. This sinister sonata has more in common with the collaborations between Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross than anything else and serves as a thought-provoking end to the album. You get the feeling that Magee has weaved something of his own experiences into this electronic landscape; humanizing the inhuman. Literally breathing life, however exhausted; however unsettling, into this genre that is so often devoid of anything resembling a soul.
It’s the composition of these tracks that sets it apart from most modern electronica albums, as it thoughtfully looks to its inward human elements as well as swelling with layered virtual instruments and conventional rhythmic mantras. It is this level of sonic introspection that has no doubt earned Arvo Party the attention and kind words or BBC 6’s Tom Robinson, as well as a nomination for the Northern Irish Music Award this year.
Arvo Party’s self-titled debut was self-released back in July this year on bandcamp and warrants the attention of your ears and your wallet if dark, ambient electronica is your thing.