Sonic Curiosity Logo

American Electronics: Arc, Charles Ditto, Dan Pound, Robert Rich

decorative rule

ARC: Church (CD on DiN)

This release from 2010 offers 74 minutes of potent electronic music.

Arc is two British synthesists: Ian Boddy on synthesizers and software, and Mark Shreeve (from Redshift) on synthesizers and sequencing.

Okay, technically Arc isn't an American band--but this release documents their Gatherings concert at St. Mary's Church in Philadelphia on November 14, 2009.

Known for their dynamic style of electronic music, the band does not disappoint with this outing.

The first track (the longest, at nearly 22 minutes) is the title piece and does a superb job of capturing a cathedral disposition with divine texturals and mounting keyboards of distinct puissance. Sedately beats (punctuated by grand bell knolls) provide a reverent boost, endowing the tune with a majestic flavor. Ah, but this is only an intro that ushers the audience into a pool of gurgling diodes, which in turn is but a lead-in to a pastoral passage of airy keyboards blended with understated rhythms. And suddenly things erupt with vitality and an increase of velocity as sequencers belt out crystalline riffs which scamper through the rafters and achieve a timbre rich enough to rattle the house of worship. Again, things switch mode abruptly, entering a ricocheting cadence that escalates into an epic cascade of unbridled electronics. The tune settles down as it approaches its conclusion, but not before tantalizing the audience with a few last minute surprises.

The next piece adopts a steadier flow with twinkling keys and bouncy rhythms. The melody achieves an uninterrupted progression as the performers concentrate on comfortable riffs that glisten with pleasant charisma.

Next, the electronics explore some inventive sounds which are summarily harnessed into a delightfully controlled frenzy. Nimble-fingered keys generate lavish chords that coalesce into a blinding fury of beatific glory that persists in compounding until the wonder is nigh excruciating.

The fourth track offers another dose of swiftly intensifying riffs that spiral though progressions of a heavenly nature.

The final piece continues the band's approach of determined escalation, establishing a relentless series of bewitching passages--with a few tactical lulls thrown in to allow things to build anew to fresh pinnacles of eminence.

A magnificent selection of breathtaking EM.

decorative rule

CHARLES DITTO: The Fantoccini Chronicles (CD on Human Symphony Music)

This release from 1995 offers 66 minutes of cinematic electronic music.

The electronics are versatile and often tinged with modern classical overtones. In fact, there are several instances in which a full orchestra has been synthesized to achieve the appropriate level of intensity.

Keyboards are extensively used to convey the melodies. There are sedate passages in which the chords establish anticipation with delicate skill, often leading to pay-offs of haunting definition. There are abstract instances: one that blends accordion-like sounds with erratic tempos to generate tautness, another that used mechanical noises to capture mounting stress. One track employs crisp piano to achieve a tender sentiment, while in another piece the piano adopts melancholic airs.

Percussion is widespread, enhancing the music's drama…with urgent rhythms in places, with terse tempos on other occasions. Sometimes the beats are muffled, lending the rhythms a plodding western motif.

There's a very cinematic demeanor to these compositions, but the music possesses more oomph than conventional film scores. This tuneage exhibits a high sense of drama, the type attached to action scenes or turning point moments in the stories. Progressive influences are lurking in this music which tantalize while entrancing the audience.

Some of this music is excerpted from scores commissioned by Amherst College for shows created by Peter Lobdell and Thom Haxo.

decorative rule

CHARLES DITTO: Public Triangle (CD on Human Symphony Music)

This release from 2002 offers 52 minutes of cinematic electronic music.

Another tasty dose of cinematic tuneage.

Again, the electronics are versatile, synthesizing orchestral and other instruments to establish the appropriate drama. Faux horns impart dire consequences. Accordion-like punctuations blend with xylophonic stretches to achieve a jaunty emphasis.

The keyboards are manipulated with care to express engaging movements. Melodies cavort and sway, creating intellectually carefree moods. Airily demonstrative chords delineate passages of quirky charisma. Meanwhile, anxiety is tempered with breezy attitudes which serve to defuse stress and instill an infectious relief.

Percussion contributes cerebral locomotion. The tempos are often integral in establishing tension, saturating the audience with a sense of expectancy. In some instances the percussives are almost toylike, generating a homey feeling that entices in the listener with whimsically sharp beats.

These compositions endow theatrical scores with a balanced personality of engaging drama and capricious distraction. While generally serious in intent, much of this music exhibits hidden humor in the manner in which the notes bounce along. Even the more abstract pieces confer a suppressed air of amusement, wherein seeming chaos is delivered with sly idiosyncrasies.

Almost all of this music is excerpted from scores commissioned by Amherst College for shows created by Peter Lobdell and Thom Haxo.

decorative rule

DAN POUND: Interlace (CD on Poundsounds)

This release from 2010 features 73 minutes of pensive electronic music.

Moody sounds are harnessed to achieve sparkling results on this album. The pieces tend to flow into each other, generating a sense of limitless space.

The first track blends dark atmospherics with agile pulsations, resulting in a haunting pastiche that seeps beyond the eardrums to saturate the cortex with lasting influence. The mood is pensive, yet uplifting, as the swaying textures tickle the blooping and chittering effects with their distinct buoyancy.

The next piece introduces clockwork elements that wobble amid a grinding drone that is nicely seasoned with piercing tones. The composition possesses a breathing inclination that remains resolute.

Delicate keyboards appear in the third track, injecting a softly melodic presence in the otherwise harmonic soundscape. Additional texturals enter the mix, swelling to command things and institute a moody flow that is tempered by auxiliary electronics of a nervous nature. Despite this subtle agitation, the music’s temperament remains sedate and pleasant.

Next, things adopt a growling edge as denser tonalities ebb into play. This sober foundation is enlivened by sprightly electronics which mount into an engaging ebullience that slowly rises into comfortable dominance and remains assertive for a while, coaxing the flow into an ambrosial ascension.

The fifth piece returns to a more introspective template as bass tones establish sluggish ripples traveling through a melange of haunting electronics and steadfast e-perc rhythms.

The final track introduces soulful flutes to the shadowy electronic flow. Glittering keyboards surface to vitalize the moodiness and help things evolve a more positive outlook for the dreamy finale.

decorative rule

ROBERT RICH: Ylang (CD on Soundscape Productions)

This release from 2010 offers 53 minutes of cerebrally gregarious electronic music.

Rich plays flutes, lap steel guitar, percussion, MOTM modular, synthesizers, shimmer and glurp. He is accompanied on tracks by: Ricky Carter (on drums), Sakthivel Muruganandhan (on mrdungam), Sunilkumar Sankarapillai (on bansuri), Haroun Serand (on guitar), Emily Bezar (on voice), Forrest Fang (on violin), Hans Christian (on cello), Paul Olguin (on upright bass), and Andy Wiskes’ parrots.

The Ylang Ylang is a flowering tree that grows in South Asia.

A decidedly organic temperament is prevalent in this music, as Rich weaves traditional and ethnic instruments with his own brand of ethereal electronics, not to mention his radiant flutes and eerie guitar sustains.

The electronics are delicate and moody, with atmospherics that are damp and fertile. Textures establish luxurious backdrops for the rest of the versatile instrumentation. Keyboards provide a hint of gentle jazz amid the vaporous flow.

The flutes generate a haunting air that buoys everything to a transcendental level. And yet there are instances in which the flutes achieve a frivolity that coaxes a congenial gratification in the listener.

The celestial resonance of lap steel guitar generates shimmering strata of sonic beauty with their ghostly sustains.

Percussion plays a vital role in this music, providing a moderate propulsion that remains comfortably languid.

The other instruments nicely flesh out the tuneage’s pacific nature. The violin and cello add classical but suitably eccentric touches. Female crooning injects a human presence. The upright bass contributes a moody thump lurking in the mix.

These compositions retain a breezy disposition despite their intellectual undercurrents. Rich has a masterful way of making esoteric melodies achieve an accessible appeal.

His first solo studio album in three years, Ylang offers an intellectually stimulating selection of tuneage that will satisfy his longtime fans and delight newcomers as well.

decorative rule
Entire page © 2010 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
Webpage design by Stasy