Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Arc in Round at Mercury Lounge 12-8-10

Anytime a band goes from a controlled studio setting to recreating those recordings live, it can be a tricky proposition. Especially for the dense, hazy fog of shoegaze which can notoriously be a technically unpredictable animal.
But guitarist, Jeff Zeigler wrangles sound for a living, producing various Philly bands including the headliners at last night show, War on Drugs at his own Uniform Recording Studios.
So it makes perfect sense that given his technical prowess, Arc in Round would easily be able to tame the layers of atmospherics that make up the tracks from their EP. It also helps they've been playing together for years...initially under the name 'Relay' before renaming themselves after a Disco Inferno track. The sound is influenced heavily by the shoegaze heyday, but they seem to walk a line between experimental drone and dream-pop, they have no problem unpacking the melody into noise and vice versa.
But what compels a contemporary band to continue to explore this genre? It has to be that element of surprise that comes from building that pile of sounds and attempting to keep it together during the breaks and changes. Sounds start to appear you had nothing to do with, a harmonic, or combination of elements you couldn't have hoped to plan turns into something greater than the sum of it's parts. That has to be part of the attraction for a band even with the technical challenges...and that's what makes it a great thing live. it forces the audience to stop trying to pick apart the individual pieces and just give in to the work as a whole.

The vocals from Mikele and Jeff are almost indistinguishable as a lyric, they function completely as another instrument. Buried under an echo they're a humanizing element in the otherwise foreign sounds that come out of the chains of pedals and synths.

But for the sound, their setup actually seemed relatively simple. That's the smartest thing to do with this sound, and in the end allows for the most possibilities... after all it’s not even about reverb if you believe Kevin Sheilds. They made it look pretty effortless and for me it especially works when I honestly have no idea who is creating a particular noise, between Jeff and Mikele, the upper register sounds turning into melody have to coming from one of the pair but neither of their playing is giving it away. Ian and Matt on bass and drums keep the tracks driving ahead always poppy and consistently changing while keeping the haze grounded in catchy consistent rhythms.

They create those epic swells that creep up like EITS, but without the massively changing dynamics, the stops and starts...once the the wall starts, the rising tides are thing you know, you can't reach the bottom.

They're more than carrying a torch for the genre, they're taking the conceptual idea's of this overwhelming sound past it's early endpoint. They are probably the best example I've heard of current shoegaze, (for lack of a better term), and like their contemporaries, earplugs are highly recommended.

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