4 out of 5
Label: Rephlex (digital) / WéMè Records (physical)
Produced by: D’Arcangelo
Rephlex certainly offered up a lot of great releases during its time in operation, though I feel like only a handful of those emerged fully with their own identities. That is: it was too easy to compare to grandaddy Aphex quite often, and / or one of the other label mainstays.
I never felt like D’Arcangelo quite got the attention of some of the other standouts, but I do think the brother duo of Fabrizio and Marco carved out their own sound from their outset – a very cold, and yet somehow also grooving variant of IDM – trying to figure out how to evolve it while maintaining their originality. The five year break between Broken Toys Corner and Eksel had them wandering outside of their darker moods for poppier beats a little less successfully; Eksel’s followup – the proudly titled ‘The Album’ – course corrects for some of their most consistent, darkest, and most expressive work yet.
The experience kicks off with fitting imagery for the group: song titles Beta IV and Macro II are vaguely spacey and scientific; perfect for the distant dancefloor angst the duo works with, and awesomely realized in Beta’s bopping and odd bassline topped by glossy electronics. Memento, the third track, peels things back a bit for some short ambience, which turns out to be a nice transition into when the album fully opens up. Tracks from here on out – with names like Smooth Walk, and As It Goes – sound more open-ended, and more grounded. And they are, while also taking the group’s bleakness and blowing it up with mad breakdowns where the beat seems to stutter out almost dissembling pieces… only to reemerge even stronger. On the LP version, it’s easy to hear tracks in pairs, with the same themes popping up first in a groovier workout, and then in a more intense version on the track following it. And just as the album starts up with a reminder of D’Arcangelo’s style before exploding with these bright, new expressions of it, the album ends with a cold wash of ambience again on ILediant, which transitions into some intense beats fitting for a conclusion – a nice way of bringing two feelings the album offers together.
Having listened to the album digitally for some years before WéMè would release a physical version, the latter I think makes it easier to appreciate the experience: when the songs are paired up per side, as mentioned, the back-to-back juxtaposition of pace and repetition of sounds is exciting. When listened to without the physical pause of getting up to flip over an LP, that thread is lost, and the middle of the album – while very strong song by song – doesn’t seem like it has a purposeful sequence, as does the opening and ending. Thus, I’m super happy that the LP made me revisit The Album and respark my adoration for D’Arcangelo.