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ARC, England







Samples

To the best of my knowledge, there is no centralized website or Facebook for the band. There's plenty of samples, mostly under the Ian Boddy name. I have no idea why the band's name is capitalized. As far as I know, ARC is not an acronym that stands for something. Maybe the progenitors will inform us?

ARC - Octane. 1998 Something Else
ARC - Radio Sputnik. 2000 DiN
ARC - Blaze. 2003 DiN
ARC - Arcturus. 2005 DiN
ARC - Fracture. 2007 DiN
ARC - Church. 2010 DiN
ARC - Umbra. 2014 DiN

(ARC also has at least one download only album not included in the above)

In light of UTR's recent expose on Node, let's cover off on another one of the great Berlin School revival bands coming from England: ARC.

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The ARC legacy starts with "Octane", the debut studio album from this fruitful Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve collaboration. This is an album for those who like the classic Berlin School scene similar to other like-minded bands such as AirSculpture, Radio Massacre International, and Redshift (a band, incidentally, which Shreeve leads). Heavy on the analog keyboards, especially sequencers and mellotron (sampled according to Planet Mellotron). The best tracks are, not surprisingly, the more heavily sequenced ones - and those would be the title track and 'Relay'.

"Octane" was released on Something Else Records. All subsequent albums were pressed by Boddy's own DiN label (and I believe he owned Something Else as well).


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ARC's second album, "Radio Sputnik", is a live outing from the Alfa Centauri Festival in The Netherlands (recorded March 21, 1998). It is also their debut release on Ian Boddy's own DiN label. The concert features, as one would expect, songs from their first studio album "Octane" including 'Steam', 'Who Walks Behind You', 'Octane', and 'Relay'. Only 'Turn and Face Me' from the debut is omitted, but they add four other tracks including their landmark 'Arc-Angel' track.

ARC's music continues to be squarely in the electronic Berlin School tradition. No surprise there given that Mark Shreeve heads up what I consider one of the finest bands in the style with Redshift. The first half of the "Radio Sputnik" is more atmospheric with pulsating sequences, while the latter half is more heavily geared towards the classic Redshift sound.
The concert is entirely improvised, so there are many shifts and changes throughout each composition – not just the usual static monotone sequences. 'Arc-Angel' is one of their finest pieces ever, with incredible rapid fire sequencing all over, and choral mellotron layered on top which creates an extraordinary listening experience. Closing with 'Relay', arguably the finest track on "Octane", puts this album in the indispensable category. 

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"Blaze", ARC's 3rd album starts with Rhodes piano and... could it be? Yes, a real drummer (provided by Carl Brooker). It seems the duo of ARC are paying homage to the late 70s pioneers who mixed their Berlin School electronics with real drums ala Klaus Krueger (Tangerine Dream/Edgar Froese) and Harold Grosskopf (Klaus Schulze/Ashra). Sequencers and Mellotron follow, and yee-haw, we're in "Force Majeure" territory in mere seconds. Half the tracks are sans drums, and all of these are atmospheric and pulsating, somewhat similar to the first half of "Radio Sputnik". These tracks setup the more dynamic and rhythmic drum plus sequencer compositions that are devastating when presented in this manner. In particular 'Klangwand' and 'Pulse Train' deliver a powerful collection of analog synthesizers along with driving percussion. Another essential album from ARC.

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"Arcturus" is ARC's 4th album, and represents their live concert as performed at the Hampshire Jam 3 festival on October 23, 2004. They're back to a duo, with an impressive array of analog synthesizers, most notably Mark Shreeve's big ole honkin' Moog Modular. Ian Boddy brings along most of the more modern equipment to make it much easier to accomplish what they need to accomplish. On "Arcturus", ARC are square-on mid 1970s Tangerine Dream style. If you're the type who can't be fed enough of "Phaedra"and "Rubycon" - and apparently I would fit in this category - then "Arcturus" is going to satisfy your hunger. Incredible sequences provide the foundation for the layered atmospheric synthesizers that sound like Mellotron, echoed Rhodes piano, and sundry other vintage sounds (many of which are sampled, but honestly, the effect is the same). And nobody does the throbbing fat sequences of the "Big" Moog like Mark Shreeve. He's second to none in that field for the modern era.

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Perhaps ARC should have named "Fracture" something like "Departure" instead (and, as luck would have it, the second track is titled 'Departed'). As other reviewers have noted, this ARC album is indeed quite a bit different from its predecessors. The music can be defined as haunting and atmospheric - darkly shaded - with copious amounts of throbbing deep-bass Moog 'beats' (for a lack of a better term). This isn't a classic Berlin School sequencer fest, though one can hardly blame Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve for trying something a bit different. Shreeve in particular has already proven himself as the king of the Modular Moog sequences with his group Redshift. Perhaps they feel at times an obligation to do nothing but shredding sequencers and synthesizer solos, but then the music is no longer fun when it becomes a job, right? The music on "Fracture" could easily be background music at a hipster club in Brooklyn or San Francisco. The final track 'Rapture' does finally get down to some serious sequencer business, but only after ten minutes of creepy atmospherics - Sigillum S style (and it closes in a similar manner). I appreciate the effort here to be distinctive, but it remains my least favorite ARC album to date (2014). I know, I know - some people never really evolve. I write that as my knuckles scrape the ground...

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"Church" was recorded live on November 14, 2009 at Old St. Mary's Church in Philadelphia. Hence the title. You can pretty much presume how this album came about. Mark Shreeve and Ian Boddy arrive in Philadelphia and setup their massive equipment, including the Big Moog (mostly donated by local musicians for the cause - it would seem a bit cumbersome to put a large Moog in the airplane's overhead bins wouldn't it?). They then ask the concert organizer Chuck van Zyl (an accomplished and respected electronic musician in his own right) what they should play. "Oh, whatever you want, I wouldn't dare suggest..." "Well, what would your audience prefer then you guess?" "Well, you know, probably the sequencer oriented material" "Yes, the sequencer stuff. Right. Of course." So if "Fracture" was ARC's most outside-the-lines album, then "Church" is smack dab in the middle of the field, giving the title a double metaphor to work with - if one sees a church as traditional that is. So what you get is two long-time masters at the art of the synthesizer, performing 74+ minutes of Berlin School sequencer driven electronic music, played in a church built in 1763. Not sure one could draft a better idea if they tried. Immaculate.

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"Umbra" is the latest ARC album, this one also a live recording - coming from the E-Live festival in The Netherlands on the date of October 19, 2013. Again we are treated to a CD packed to the very brim at 78+ minutes of sequencer filled goodness. While ARC have been known to surprise in the studio - such as the drummer fueled "Blaze" or the moody "Fracture" - in a live setting they are all about letting the sequencers blast away, while adding all sorts of textures, melody lines, and synthesizer solos on top. At this point in their career, Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve know exactly what their audience wants, and how to make it happen. And so "Umbra" goes, with some of the fattest and most dynamic Moog Modular sequences in the business, while setting the table for the various synthesized sounds layered as icing on the cake (including faux choir Mellotron). Berlin School music at its most professional. Some music never goes out of style, and this is one of them. Can't miss item here for fans of the genre.

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