D’Arcangelo – Shipwreck

5 out of 5

Label: Rephlex

Produced by: D’Arcangelo

My first few pokes around Rephlex spoiled me rotten. There was Richard D. James’ stuff of course, but amongst the first few things I picked up – no doubt in part because of its fun packaging, coming in a silver tin – was D’Arcangelo’s Shipwreck, which still is one of the most original and arresting electronic albums I’ve heard. Years later, that I still haven’t heard its match – excepting some of brothers Fabrizio’s and Marco’s other releases under their moniker – misled me into thinking that all IDM must be this good, which, of course, simply isn’t the case.

D’Arcangelo specialize in a particularly icy, slippery form of techno, that manages to juggle beauty with brutality; delicateness with iciness. The duo have pushed more towards breakbeats or acid at points; Shipwreck is very, very obsessed with percussion, and the layering of that with some incredibly ominous synth lines or general clatter makes for quite a sound: it’s noisy, but catchy; a lot of clatter that slinks into form. The album title and artwork is suggestive of isolation, and using that to retreat into the cerebral. So rather ominous, cavernous rhythms are touched by dancing keys and tone affectation, futzing into harsher beats. There’s definitely an AFX undercurrent to that, but the way the duo pushes the top layer toward ambience – all of this done with very “modern” synth sounds – is part of their unique blend.

And then Fate In Us closes it out with a new wave groove, a kind of ironic final embrasure of the inherent danciness to all this herky-jerky creativity – a three-minute reminder that maybe it’s okay to toss off the complexities and just get down and boogie. It’s a “trick” that works perfectly as a butt-wiggling, head-bobbing closer, and sets the stage well for further D’Arcangelo explorations, found either by hitting play again – diving back into the album’s soothing chill – or advancing on to any other album from their oeuvre.