Philly's Arc In Round finally made some waves - my timing flaw, not theirs - around these parts last month, enveloping my senses with the beguiling Spirit single.Having since had a few good one-on-one sessions with their new self-titled album, it's time to see how they went about weaving that alluring mix of dreamy shoegaze and alt-rock into a full album tapestry.
Blending any other influences into the hazy reverb of shoegaze can yield mixed results at the best of times. The dynamic walls of noise subsiding into quiet reverb offer enough variation to begin with, so attempting further sonic alchemy requires skill - and a little luck - to avoid ending up with a lump of purest green.
Skillful as they are, Arc In Round achieve most here through their less-is-more approach to dilution. A melodic flourish here, an addictive alt-rock hook there; but never a wholesale capitulation to another style. The swirling mania of shoegaze remains at the core of all they play, with the embellishments providing the icing (frosting, in US parlance) that adds to the taste.
The playful pummel of Spirit is matched on other early tracks, Coffee being a particularly breezy yet angular example. Elsewhere the atmosphere is more brooding, as on the skewed II, which has all the threat of a APlace To Bury Strangers track but replaces the sheer sensory assault of that comparison with more of a soaring groove.
Dual interludes labelled <----> and >----< break up weightier tracks in esoteric fashion, showing an isolated though not unwelcome desire to indulge pure electronica. It's a microcosm of what makes this album so endearing; the natural exploration of it's sound, its place amidst the sonic wash of shoegaze.
Often, such exploration on a debut can lead to a lop-sided end product, brilliant in the places it all gels together, messy in those it doesn't. That isn't the case here. Certainly, there are areas that Arc In Round will improve upon next time, erm, around...those where they're experimenting with collages of sound that will be more familiar to them during their next recording sessions. There's a pleasure in accompanying them along this path, though, rather than any impatience for the fully realized sound of whatever comes next. As the venerable Mr. Frank Turner inimitably puts it: 'If you're all about the destination, then take a fucking flight.' If, however, you've time to walk the scenic route, this is one evocative record to sound track your stroll.