From the welcoming, lived-in atmosphere, it's hard to imagine that any modern instrumentation or recording equipment went into the making of Arp's second full-length MORE (third if you count his collaborative release with composer Anthony Moore).
No obvious contemporary elements materialize to break the 1970s spell (and if you told me that Alexis Georgopoulos communicates by way of rotary phones and walkie-talkies, I'd take your word for it).
As with the songs he made available in July, notably "High-Heeled Clouds," I hear a lot of Brian Eno throughout the album, both with and without Roxy Music. The interplay between the piano and saxophone on "Judy Nylon," for instance, sounds more like early Roxy Music than anything they did without him; it's just that Alexis's soft, blurry voice evokes Eno or Harry Nilsson more than Bryan Ferry. And then, just when you think you've got him sussed, he brings the record to a close with a Moog workout that comes to a gentle, watery end, like Spacemen 3 channeling Neu.
Georgopoulos and Moore from RVNG Intl's FRKWYS Vol. 3—a different side of Arp.
Like other artists who started out as instrumentalists, he doesn't always rely on words, which adds to the relaxed vibe. Sometimes lyrics appear; sometimes not. On a few tracks, he uses sighs and other vocalizations instead, much like Juana Molina. At a few key points, he adds samples of birds, trains, and half-heard voices. For those who aren't tuned into his frequency, it's all might seem a little precious—even twee—but I never sensed any ironic or academic intentions that might suggest an exercise in style rather than a sincere attempt at expression.
Nonetheless, MORE is a very stylish album in which the form remains indivisible from the content. On a surface level, the form is the content, but I tend to gravitate towards musicians and filmmakers, like David Bowie or Nicolas Roeg, who have such a distinctive, immediately recognizable stamp that I notice what their work looks or sounds like before I start to figure out what it all means.
And so it goes with this record, among the finest in a year filled with riches, and yet I couldn't say what Alexis is going on about in some of these songs. In "High-Heeled Clouds," for instance, he ponders New York, where he lives, but I'm not sure whether he's praising or criticizing—a mix of the two, near as I can tell. And I'm not sure that it really matters. The very sound of this record moves me.
Smalltown Supersound releases MORE on Sept 17. More info here.