D’Arcangelo – Tweaking Paper EP

4 out of 5

Label: Analogical Force

Produced by: D’Arcangelo

The cover of D’Arcangelo’s Tweaking Paper EP is this symmetrical, polymorphous blob of black and white ribbons; some kind of simple mathematical concept stretched apart into peaks and valleys, gooping wider and skinnier as some imagined “gravity” demands. The tracklisting is an extension of this – sparse text that’s stretched out in angular, severe lines. Designer ‘Geometric Love‘ has made similar looks to this, but I’d like to think that this caters to the sound of Tweaking Paper, as well as possibly being a callback to the splooshy shape on D’Arcangelo’s debut album as well – though here it’s more controlled, and more defined.

All of that goes in to what I hear across these five tracks, which run a mini gamut through acid, IDM breakbeats, chill, and then some magical mash-ups of retro and modern that produce an oddball sound that’s incredibly weird but incredibly compelling: the callback to D’Arc’s origins can be found in the album’s more recognizable opening tracks, before it all gets expounded upon in what follows, in an undoubtedly planned but thrilling and unexpected fashion.

Boombox kicks things off safely with some slick, soothing acid, the nostalgic vibe of the title represented in the Detroit-y bomp of the track. Hexo Four kicks in to Broken Toys’ Corner-era cut-and-paste intensity, a kind of electro that kids on the CPU label are favoring, but that’s nonetheless fallen by the wayside – at least at this professional level – since peak Rephlex days. But Atomik 2 and following Mentoin are where things get bizarre, each track backed by immediately grooving beats that are then juxtaposed by retro gamer bleeps and further dashes of IDM and acid in ways that my brain can’t possibly fit together – like it seems like two or three different songs in the same room – but that all somehow works. I’m still not used to this tracks; I keep stopping to listen to them in detail as I let the album spin. Closer Verture is just like a victory lap – it’s definitely a bit chill, but the D’Arcangelo brothers are a bit more showy here than Boombox, allowing in elements of the previous tracks with more of an emphasis on groove.

Here and there the experimentation gets the best of the duo – some codas feel excessive, and Hexo goes in for stops-and-starts a bit too much, but D’Arcangelo have just been consistently iterating on their style for years – a group that’s never really on the forefront, and releasing at their own pace, but when they drop something like this, it’s absolutely worth a listen, if only to be reminded how inventive they are.