In Arcadia is a solo project for guitarist Chris Garth and is more electronic and ambient focused than his day job with progressive sludge-metal outfit Upcdownc. Chris is from Medway in Kent, or Rochester to be more exact. Whenever I think of Medway the first person that springs to mind is the prolific and talented Billy Childish who is from nearby Chatham and played in a number of garage–punk outfits, as well as being a poet and a proponent of the Stuckism art movement.
Chris, much like Billy Childish, is also somewhat prolific, and visiting both Upcdownc and In Arcadia‘s bandcamp pages finds a plethora of releases. In Arcadia is the latest, and the follow-up to his debut After The Dark which was released earlier this year. Chris has described the album and subsequent cover art (by friend Yasmin El-Amery) as inspired by Science Fiction. There is certainly a Close Encounters of the Third Kind feel with the mysterious figures lurking in the woods.
The title Phon refers to ‘a unit of perceived loudness of sounds’ and the album starts with Phon – Part One, synths and keys are the lead instruments. One of the influences listed in the promo notes is Tangerine Dream and although that is evident, there is definitely a John Carpenter ingredient in the mix as well. The track would certainly have fit onto any number of 80s sci-fi classics, ala Carpenter’s Starman or even Ron Howard’s Cocoon, especially as there is an ‘other-worldly’ atmosphere created.
Phon – Part Two is the shortest of all the tracks at nearly ten and a half minutes that, unlike both the preceding and following numbers, is far more drum and percussion driven. Curiously there are tribal flavours present and a continuous drone providing the backdrop, evoking more the jungles of the Amazon, than the extraterrestrial realms of outer space. There is a world music approach here too and some positively Jazzy drumming coming in roughly halfway through. By the end however, it reverts back to the synth sound we have grown accustomed to.
A fascinating listen that fans of experimental electronic music and 80s sci-fi will be able to appreciate…
Finally, Phon – Part 3 is the longest on the album at eighteen and a half minutes. Incidentally one record I omitted to mention so far that influenced not only the making of this track, but also the album as a whole is Celestite by Wolves In The Throne Room. This was an album that saw that band move away from black metal into a dark drone ambient territory, much to the consternation of some of their fan base. Throw in a measure of Jean Michel Jarre’s pioneering new age work and you have all the components necessary for the mellowest track on Phon and one which makes for a fitting conclusion.
The album’s intent is that it’s supposed to be listened to as one long piece, so as to create a story in your head, and there is certainly a cinematic quality to it when heard all the way through. For complete effectiveness I would recommend listening to it on a decent quality pair of headphones (not earphones) to completely immerse yourself in the experience.
It’s also worth mentioning in conclusion that the album is clearly influenced by Jeff Wayne’s legendary War Of The World’s project, however I personally find Phon more rewarding, as sans vocals and narration, gives the listener more of an opportunity to create their own story in their mind, and not be restricted by a set theme. A fascinating listen that fans of experimental electronic music and 80s sci-fi will be able to appreciate.
Scribed by: Reza Mills