For Alex Georgopoulos, less is most definitely more – or at least it is in the case of the ex-Tussle man’s second solo project, Arp. This is his second album under the name, and represents a step further forward into the cosmos.
With his talent for making a lot out of a little, whole swathes of music and texture can drift by with the use of just a small handful of notes. These are cleverly manipulated by sound processing or register, until they turn in on themselves or expand outwards, heading for a more distant orbit.
In this way he is something of a modern Jean Michel Jarre or even Vangelis, tapping into the melodic economy of the former’s Oxygene album, or going some way towards the stark beauty of the latter’s Blade Runner soundtrack. That he doesn’t quite achieve either should not be viewed as a form of falling short, but gives a guideline as to where this music is headed.
Sonically Arp has moved on from the primitive melodies of In Light, his last album released some three years ago. It has been a natural progression, however, with the same familiar washes of sound taking place over longer structures in the brave opening triptych, Pastoral Symphony. The title itself is risky, with formidable ancestors coming to mind in Beethoven and Handel, yet as a description it proves accurate of the consonant harmonic beauty he finds among the sonic waves.
Other tracks are more focused, and as a result are more effective for short term gain. Catch Wave is a real sonic indulgence, while the light, trancey melodies of Alfa (Dusted) suggest something of an out take from Steve Reich‘s Electric Counterpoint. Other pieces of work, Summer Girl for instance, are content to stay more or less static, drifting by the listener in an end of day haze.
Perhaps the most moving moment of The Soft Wave occurs in its closing pages, with Georgopoulos heard in sotto voce for the only time. In a strangely moving song, backed by increasingly weird and psychedelic electronics, he portrays the odd combination of regret and hope that comes with moving from one place and life to another. As a closing page it is most effective, with the restrained tones of Silver Clouds for company.
Structurally and sonically, then, this represents a strong progression for Arp, and even if the analogue workings are inevitably paying a heavy debt to the early 1970s, they are a pay off well worth making for a slightly indulgent but enlightening sonic voyage.