[album review] arp: the soft wave

November 30, 2010

Album cover for The Soft Wave by Arp

Arp: The Soft Wave (Smalltown Supersound, 2010)
£3.78 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Boomkat]

Not enough Kosmische in your life? Still hoping those lost Harmonia/Cluster/Kraftwerk sessions will be discovered and exhumed from the vaults? Worry not. In The Soft Wave, Arp (former Tussle lynchpin Alexis Georgopoulos) has created a homage to the all-to-brief 1970s German electronic music movement so uncanny that a Brian Eno collaboration is surely only a matter of time.

OK I jest, but Georgopoulos captures the sounds, rhythms and feel of that music so completely the main question is whether we should simply ignore this release and go straight back to the source. Indeed, listening to The Soft Wave does inspire you to revisit those effortless tones from Rother, Moebius, Roedelius and, yes, Eno. But this is only part of its value. It rewards on its own terms too.

Opening with a Pastoral Symphony in two parts, the album immediately transports you (via motorway, naturally) to Cologne, 1974. Where Kraftwerk documented speeding down the Autobahn, Arp perhaps seeks to capture the countryside that rushes by (though the names of its movements – Dominoes and Infinity Room – don’t seem very pastoral). Either way it is a such an accurate pastiche that you find yourself hearing Messrs. Hütter, Schneider, Röder and Flür even though they zoomed past long ago.

Things loosen up a bit after that. White Light overlays a looped guitar phrase with thick blasts of feedback and white noise, overpowering the harmonious melody trying (in vain) to escape; Alfa (Dusted) pairs increasingly processed guitar noodlings with a dainty electronic rumba bass line (what is it about latin rhythms and Kosmische that make them go together so well?); Catch Wave‘s shimmering piano appears as an atmospheric prelude, though whether to High Life‘s bittersweet bossanova isn’t clear; Grapefruit and Summer Girl (another rumba) continue the immaculately Krautish vibe.

And then, out of nowhere, a song! From A Balcony Overlooking The Sea offers a wistful look back at good times past in the form of a distinctly Enoesque (circa Another Green World) sedate rumba (another one). It is a lovely song, providing a welcome anchor – like a moored boat bobbing gently in the water – after the pleasingly passive drifting of the instrumental tracks that comprise the rest of the album.

The water-faring metaphor is apt for this album. Sometimes the current has a clear sense of direction, sometimes the water is almost completely still, but mostly it undulates like, well, a soft wave. Best to sit back and be carried along.

close to 94 rating: ★★★★★★★

This review is part of close to 94‘s [emusic club], which reviews one album from the eMusic catalogue every week from a selection refreshed every month.

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