Monday, August 22, 2011

REVIEW// Arks: - EP

     I was recently sent a link to this four-track EP from a trio called Arks, a shoegaze pop outfit hailing from Manchester and whose website can be found here. Dropped a few days ago, '-' and the band itself have been influenced by the likes of Radiohead (you all know I'm a massive fan), Sigur Ros and The Twilight Sad, which immediately caught my attention. And that attention wasn't wasted. Available in a 'pay what you want' fashion over at the settlement that is the Bandcamp, there is a strangely surreal air to the music. It's surrounded by a dreamy mist that twists and dances in the sunset glare as you walk deeper and deeper into its sonic soundscape. '-' is a clear blue ocean that erupts in colour the deeper you dive. On the surface, this mightn't appear as the best shoegaze EP out there, but take a moment to immerse yourself in the music and you might be surprised to find that you can breath much easier than before. A very soothing and relaxing listen, from the muffled vocals to the nostalgic lo-fi quality of the recording, everything about this EP is pleasing to the ear. These are twenty minutes worth your time and download.
     Opening with ‘Ontario’, the muffled vocals creep into your head. The guitars are laden with emotion and the drums carry that passion with undeniable ease. The melody floats with an airy happiness, tied to reality by undertones of unmistakable sadness. Blocking out everything else, this track dares to imagine a happier world while choking back tears. As the song progresses its presence grows, filling the room and leading into the next number, 'Glacier'. Like the name suggests, this is slow-moving and beautiful, yet throbbing from within with a subtle disquiet. Incomprehensible words drown in these waters while vaporous vocals are swallowed up by the fantastic guitar work. Majestic sounds build into almighty pillars of texture and feeling, all of which crash back to earth at the start of 'Untitled #2', which you can stream below. Lo-fi vocals add to the mood, which settles like the calm after a storm. The most ambient track on the EP, this slowly fluctuating wave spikes periodically in fit's of reoccurring passion, and I can't get enough of it. These are the sort of songs that get better and better with each listen, and those are the type of track that I just long to review. I just have to urge you to check these guys out.
     The final track here, 'Patterns', is the longest out of these four, running for just over a third of the EP. An agitated start is leveled out by the solid drum beat and as you listen the sound grows. It rises higher and higher, to an almost cinematic scope. Cymbal crashes light up the sky and at the very end everything goes quiet. As the guitars slow and stop and the drums fade into nothingness, you're left wondering about what you've just experienced. Then, out of the silence slithers something all together different. An ominous sneer ends the EP. After burying the sadness, that same lament has clawed its way back into the world. A message perhaps? Can we ever truly get rid of hate and anguish? However much we mask it or bury it in happiness, will it always find a way back into our lives? As the EP ends for the second time, these questions are left unanswered, and for the next few minutes you sit and think. Captivating in its execution and intriguing in its conclusion, '-' is surreal dream pop at its very best, floating along on a sea of underlying worry. I can't wait to see what Arks release next, hopefully in the very near future!

'Untitled #2'