03 May 2011

Arc in Round: "Diagonal Fields EP"

My thanks to Jeff Zeigler for keeping me in the loop.

Between hardware issues and the daily grind, consistency has been more than difficult. This, however, does not mean that I have stopped listening to music. To the contrary, I have been immersed in a world of sonic euphoria, which Philadelphia’s Arc in the Round has been part of. Recently, the “Diagonal Fields EP” (25 January 2011) has come across my radar, and it has given me many reasons to pause and listen again and again. Curiosity started to swell, but I avoided all temptations to read up on the band simply because I did not want to taint my own impressions of the music. As a lover of dream pop, noise pop, and shoegaze (my once again obsession this year), I find it difficult to stop listening to this too brief collection of songs. The best way I can describe this album is falling asleep to waking up in morning, a process so natural but so subconscious, and yet so sublime.

The journey starts with “3a.m. all the time”; crashing into that not so comfortable but familiar bed, finding it hard to fall asleep. The beats twists and turn, the interplay between crisp and affected guitars is as sophisticated as it comes, and the subtle background, ambient sounds makes this song (the shortest on the album) a treasured gem. The consistent and dreamy phase of REM kicks off with “Spirit.” The most “traditional” shoegaze on the collection, the track reveals the pop sensibility of the band. The ability to straddle shoegaze mixed with post-rock, while incorporating subtle pop hooks is brilliant and done so naturally by the band.

As you fall into deeper sleep, “Follow” and “Light” proceed. Aptly, both songs are the strongest showing of dream pop; even the gritty “Light” is tempered with luscious vocal arrangements to gain that dreamy, trippy feeling that great dream pop, like Cocteau Twins, brings to the table. The showstopper, though, is “Slow Ceiling,” that becoming conscious once again in the morning … that slow drawn out process between here and there, dreams and reality. A true instrumental (written as such, not just as a song with lyrics/vocals taken out), the beauty of this song is how it slowly builds. The keys in the background reminds me greatly of “The Kiss” by The Cure: though mainly for ambience, their haunting presence makes the visceral anxiousness of the song that much more powerful. But when that beautiful acoustic strumming kicks off, amongst all these arrangements that keep on getting layered.

What I love about “Diagonal Fields” is that for as polish and sophisticated as the album is, the band has kept some of the grittiness in the mix; there is a definite sense that this is music, like that of Spirtiualized, that really needs to be experienced live … at blaring volumes. What I really like about Arc in Round is that this is not yesterday’s shoegaze. Arc in Round does not jump onto this current shoegaze revival to emulate the past; they have instead learned and incorporated the past, bring in a slew of musical references, and have created a orgiastic, euphoric collection of music that lovers of dream pop and shoegaze should run (not walk) to check out.

Track Listing:
1. 3 a.m. all the time
2. Spirit
3. Follow
4. Light
5. Slow Ceiling
6. Spirit (Pink Skull Remix)

Keep up with Arc in Round at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Head over to their Bandcamp page where you can preview and purchase “Diagonal Fields”

Here is an audio clip of “Slow Ceiling” from the bands YouTube Channel: arcinround.

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